Senior Medical Officer/General Practitioner | Esk Hospital and Health Matters Fernvale (Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul Country)
Dr Danielle Allan is a Rural Generalist with advanced skills in paediatrics working and living in Esk. Danielle’s journey to rural generalism has been diverse. She always knew she wanted to be a rural doctor whilst working as a travel agent and rural nurse for four years, but the push to pursue medicine only came in 2005 when her father was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. After that pivotal moment, Danielle secured entry into the first Ipswich medical degree cohort with the University of Queensland (UQ), where she began her rewarding career in rural medicine.
“My father left each of us kids a task to undertake for him, mine was to sit the GAMSAT (Graduate Medical School Admission Test). He said it didn’t matter if I failed, he just wanted me to try. I was lucky enough to get into Medicine at UQ. Rural Medicine has given me a purpose and a sense of belonging that I had not felt in my previous careers. I love being part of a team and community. The idea of service is at the core of why I entered medicine.”
Undertaking paediatric Advanced Skills Training (AST) at Ipswich Hospital was a challenge for Danielle, but the experience cemented her conviction to work with children and their families. “I had been described by one of the consultants as an ‘excrement attractor’ due to the nature and severity of cases I encountered, but I feel this was beneficial in moving forward with the AST. Rural medicine is so unpredictable with regards to presentations.” Danielle’s experience as a rural nurse and passion for paediatrics meant she felt well prepared to look after sick kids – something that can raise the heart rate for others.
Danielle serves the West Moreton rural community and shares her knowledge with colleagues, within the hospital setting and in general practice.
“Paediatric cases account for approximately 25% of presentations in our emergency department and around 40% in my GP role. I have been able to deal with some very sick paediatric patients including the retrieval of an 18-day old baby. My skills and experience have allowed me to pass knowledge onto my colleagues through neonatal resus training, paediatric trauma training and general scenarios. I have been able to care for paediatric patients in our service, prepare those who are too sick to stay with advanced paediatric skills, so they were ready for transport, and manage day to day issues for those unable to access timely paediatric specialist care.”
Danielle is full of optimism when considering the future. “Although I do not provide paediatric clinics to my community at the moment, this may change in the future as the region and demand on central paediatric services increases.”
Stepping into a leadership role and responding to the unique health needs of a community is no mean feat. Danielle says that like most rural leaders, she did not set out to transition to leadership, but was asked to step into a newly created role as Clinical Director for four rural services.
“It was challenging and at times I doubted if I was the right person for the job but here I am, 5 years later, and still in leadership.” Danielle places importance on undertaking training designed to support and challenge her continued growth as a leader. As part of her own journey she has participated in Queensland Health’s Manage for Improvement and Medical Managers Orientation Program and the QRGP’s Rural Generalist Leadership for Clinicians Program, delivered by RACMA.
In continuation of Danielle’s strong desire to lead and serve, she will step into the role of RDAQ President next year which “is a huge responsibility and honour.” Danielle has some wise words for Rural Generalists contemplating the step into leadership.
“As doctors we are already in a non-formalised leadership role. Our teams and communities look to us for guidance and advice in an emergency. You are respected and valued by the people you work with and serve. Use these skills and become the leader you want to be.
For any Rural Generalist interested in moving into a leadership position, my advice is to take every opportunity you are afforded. There are many leadership programs provided by the Queensland Health Clinical Excellence Division and the Queensland Rural Generalist Pathway, that will allow you to learn and discover your own individual management style. Our rural communities and doctors need strong voices advocating for them now and into the future. Regardless of location, every Queenslander deserves access to timely, cost efficient, person-centred care close to home. As a rural doctor you know your community and their needs best and can advocate on their behalf.”
Despite a transition from doctor to patient in late 2022, Danielle’s commitment and dedication to her community and profession continues to shine.
“The last year has been a rocky road for me. I am currently on medical leave from my Clinical Director and SMO positions due to a diagnosis of renal cancer in late 2022. I am gradually getting back to a position where I will be able to return to work from a health perspective, hopefully in the near year.
I am keen to be a strong voice and advocate for all our rural doctors and communities. I am very much about equity and access regardless of location.
After that I am not sure what the future will hold, hopefully many more years of serving my local community through general practice and hospital work. I look forward to helping educate and guide future Rural Generalists so they can continue to serve our rural and remote communities in Queensland.”