No matter what stage of Rural Generalist training you are at, having a good mentor can help you navigate your career path and the challenges that come alongside it. Dr Carmel Cockburn connected with her mentor as a junior doctor, enabling her to better envision her future as a Rural Generalist with advanced skills in Obstetrics.
Carmel shares her experience of being supported by a mentor from early on in her Rural Generalist career.
Navigating life’s challenges
Having the support of a more experienced colleague can keep your feet grounded and your mental health in check. Navigating training, fellowship exams and work demands can appear overwhelming when trying to balance it alongside your personal life. That’s where having a mentor can be invaluable. Listen to their stories, how they navigate challenges in their career, and how they manage to keep all the balls juggling in the air. Not only can they provide wisdom, guidance, and invaluable lessons, but they can provide access to networking opportunities and contacts in the rural generalist community.
It goes both ways
There are a few things to consider when looking for a mentor. Choose someone that is a leader in their field and embodies the knowledge, skills, attitude and experience you want to replicate in your career. Your mentor should have your best interests at heart and share similar values to you. Attending events like the annual Rural Doctors Association of Queensland (RDAQ) Conference is a perfect opportunity to network and find a mentor. Always remember that mentorship is an empowering relationship between both parties. Your mentor helps you reach your goals while also improving and developing their own leadership and mentoring skills.
Mentoring in action
Dr Tony McLellan (GP with advanced skills in Obstetrics, Atherton) has been my mentor from early in my Rural Generalist training and has supported me whilst undertaking Advanced Skills Training in Obstetrics at Cairns Hospital. I felt very well supported having Tony as my mentor. Tony invited me to see patients with him at his General Practice in Atherton. This gave me insight into how he facilitated his antenatal patients, including the reporting of his own ultrasounds, and how he supported his patients through their journey postpartum.
I was able to contact Tony through email during my Advanced Skills Training year and I continued to do so afterwards with my involvement in the reopening of Ingham’s birthing services. The most standout advice from my mentor is, ‘be clinically good at your job, then all the surrounding issues will often resolve on their own’. I apply this to my current work life. If I can provide excellent clinical care within the Ingham Hospital maternity service, the administrative, political and community input will eventually catch up.
Keeping in touch with your mentor is important, even though the dynamic may change when you become a more experienced Rural Generalist in your own right. You may not need as much guidance, but they can continue to grow you as a good doctor. Keep in contact with them through email and make plans to catch up when you can.
Even though there has been time without contact with my mentor (four sets of maternity leave in six years can create many gaps!), I know he would always be willing to help. Rural Generalists are united in the desire to see rural and remote communities receive the best care possible. Helping each other out is what we do!
When the mentored becomes the mentor
I am looking forward to the day in my career (when my children are older, and I hold more experience) where I have the privilege in becoming a mentor for junior doctors. I feel it’s important to make the time for mentoring in our career as it promotes a sustainable workforce and continues to progress the goal of achieving work-life balance and positive mental health. Sometimes it takes a little bit of extra support to ensure we look after our own mental health as Rural Generalists, so having experienced mentors linked with our budding Rural Generalists is so important.
Dr Carmel Cockburn | Senior Medical Officer, Ingham