Skip to content
>>>Teamwork makes the dream work: spotlight on Emerald

Teamwork makes the dream work: spotlight on Emerald

In 2013 QRGP trainee Dr Steve McLaughlin and a colleague were the first QRGP trainees to arrive in Emerald. One year later they were quickly followed by Drs Tristan Howie, Alison Kirby, Jessica Gaughan and Rebecca Jorgensen. Grateful for the early guidance of Rural Generalist sage Dr Ewen McPhee, the quintet are now well into their Emerald adventure, and they’re now all fully-fledged Rural Generalists in their own right.  The real winners in this story are the Emerald community which has benefited from the skills, mutual respect and friendships of these five go-getters.

Let it be

For Alison, coming to work in Emerald felt like coming home. Alison grew up on a property 150 klms from Emerald where she rode horses and chased cows as a child. “When people used to ask me where I was going, I would always say ‘not Emerald, if I do that I’ll never leave!’ Then I was here, and I thought, why do I want to leave? I love it here! I love my family, I love the community, I love the medicine, I love the hospital.”

With his hometown of Clermont just up the road, Emerald was the ‘big smoke’ for Steven. “Because I was familiar with the town, I knew the hospital side fitted the skills that I had and what I wanted to continue doing.”

A rural placement to Emerald in PGY2 showed Tristan how his jack of all trades mindset fitted perfectly. “I’m a little about a lot kinda person. When I saw the hospital, how it worked, that it was a good size and the town had quite a few ‘big city’ things, it made Emerald very, very liveable for me.”

Unlike the rest of the crew, Jessica was a UQ Medicine graduate. “Most of our cohort are JCU graduates so I didn’t know anybody before I came out here. I was working in Rockhampton and Emerald is one of the referral centres. I knew a little bit about the kinds of things that were referred. It was the ability to practise my advanced skill in obstetrics that drew me to Emerald.”

With a young family and another on the way, it was important for Rebecca and her husband Mitchell (also a Rural Generalist) to have a balance between family and maintaining her obstetrics skills. “We were looking for a location that could meet our two priorities, family and births. We organised an opportunity to visit the hospital and saw day care options and community sights too. It absolutely sung to us, we thought, this is it!”

Let’s come together

Coming together in Emerald as young and enthusiastic doctors may have been by chance initially, but it quickly turned into a strong network of support, respect and friendship. It wasn’t long before friendships were formed through work and they bonded as a group. Steven recalls, “We were all at a similar level of training and had similar views. We were and still are very like-minded.” Jessica remembers they were fairly junior when they started. “It was our first time out on our own rurally and we really supported one another through that.”

For Rebecca working in a rural hospital is different to anything else, so friendships blossomed. “The support and understanding that was provided in the group was really strong. Working in a rural environment already has so many hurdles, stresses and some professional and personal isolation, yet knowing you have this team there of colleagues, but also friends, it really helps you to get over those hurdles; to make it through those difficult times.”

I get by with a little help from my friends

Prior to the arrival of Rural Generalists the hospital relied heavily on locum services. Alison reflects “No one here had fixed ideas. We built the service innovatively according to the needs of the community and navigated the nuances of Queensland Health with the guidance of Dr Ewen McPhee.” The supportive team offered professional and personal growth. Rebecca recalls “everyone was open to learning and feedback and growth. They showed humility about their practise and insecurities. It is one of the best things about working in a team where you feel respected and supported.”

The hospital now (almost) has a full Rural Generalist complement. Alison notes “we take pride that the Emerald hospital is a Rural Generalist staffed hospital, with its own birthing service and our own RG surgeons who offer surgical services”. Jessica agrees, “We’ve increased our level of complexity in obstetrics and neonate service. We are able to provide a safe obstetrics service that allows women to birth close to home.”

We can work it out

In 2013-2014 adding GP teaching and training was the first link between the hospital and primary care. The group worked to develop a protected three year / six-month general practice training block between the Emerald Medical Group and the hospital. Tristan explains, “It’s where our provisional fellows and registrars get to go to Dr McPhee’s practice to do their general practice time. This is an excellent relationship that I hope continues to work for all involved. With Medicare billing starting at the Gemfields and Capella Clinics we have created opportunities to keep primary care skills current. We are proud to have a Senior Medical Officer from the Emerald Medical Group join the hospital team to be a champion doctor for those Remote QH clinics.”

Here comes the sun

Knowing the needs and limitations of the hospital helps with rostering and creating longevity within the team. Balancing work and life commitments is a drawcard for Steven, “We are quite lucky as we have a decent workload, so we have practicality in rostering. We are on call for the day that we work and on call for that night; then, on our days off, we are not on call. That creates a good lifestyle balance.” Alison enjoys the benefits of sharing the load. “It’s a benefit of working as a group, understanding the leave people want to take. We are happy and supportive of each other”. Tristan says, “I like knowing my friends are covering the situation and that I can be off” and Jessica sums it up, “if a colleague calls and needs support, we are there for them. We are part of the team, if we are needed and we are able to, we are there to support one another.”

Obla dee obla dah life goes on

According to Alison, Emerald is the ultimate work-life harmony success story. “Rural placements work, you get to experience a work / life balance, you have autonomy, you get to do a whole lot more of extra stuff and see how much fun it is. The breadth and depth of clinical practise provides an interesting and challenging workload in Emerald.” Rebecca, says “We are passionate about building the service and understanding what the community needs, it’s our home too. There is a breadth and depth of presentations, the opportunity to develop our skills and to MacGyver some procedural skills too. We feel so comfortable, happy, supported and respected in our town. ”

Feb 20th 2020| Faces of RG, |