GP’s – the benefits of ‘going rural’. URBAN VS. ‘UR-BARN’



GP’s – the benefits of ‘going rural’. URBAN VS. ‘UR-BARN’

Living and working as a doctor in the Australian country.

When faced with the prospect of ‘going rural’, many junior doctors/medical students and even long-established General Practitioners are often reluctant to jump ship.

The shortage of doctors in rural Australia has been a widely recognized issue for many years yet both medical professionals as well as rookies remain hesitant to leave the urban roost, despite the obvious demand for medical labour. Here we explore some common reasons for and against ‘going rural’.

Tumbleweed Tremor: When we envisage ‘rural’ Australia, we think of little more than donkeys, dingo’s and a desolate place. However, despite common misconception most rural areas that offer Medical placements within Australia are in fact rural cities or large towns. In many instances, these areas boast large populations, modern shopping centres, airports, sporting arenas and much more. Some of these outback localities make up some of the most beautiful not to mention affordable places to live on the continent.

Loneliness: Leaving the bright lights, underground bars, and vibrant cafes is one thing, but research suggests that people may fear solitude far more than abandoning the glitz and the glam of the metropolis.

Whilst this is a pretty legitimate cause for concern, especially if one is leaving their well-established social circles to re-locate to an area where they have little to no affiliations – many rural sites that offer medical placements (especially ones that take students/junior doctors) are actually rural cities/large towns with good sized referral hospitals. This means that there is more often than not a core group of students/medical juniors who are often there working together in a fairly tight-knit group. According to various sources, medical communities within rural areas are fairly inclusive despite common-misconception. Unlike many urban hospitals, smaller rural hospitals may offer a more cohesive, cordial and indeed calmer environment.

Stronger affiliations with allied health teams are also one of the greatest benefits of working in a remote and rural context. Working as a team in the delivery of health services is a cornerstone of primary health care especially in the Australian country where vast amounts of socio-economic issues are prevalent. These health teams are composed of members from different healthcare professions with specialized skills and expertise, who communicate and collaborate to plan and provide quality health services - Such affiliations may benefit medical professionals both professionally as well as socially – which would be uncharacteristic of an urban setting. 

The city is often depicted as a lonely and harsh place, full of strangers brushing shoulder with little to no substantial regard for one another. In smaller, more rural settings, it can be argued that there is a greater sense of community which is reinforced through activities like sporting teams, community groups, arts and grafts groups and even volunteer groups. There is normally a very fierce trivia culture in most rural towns too, and joining a team is usually instant access to a new social group.

The CV conundrum: Many people worry that being part of a rural team will not suffice in terms of experience when trying to access new roles or progress in terms of their career. We often tend to associate rural roles with negative connotations as we perceive the city as being more technologically and professionally advanced than its’ rural counterpart.

Due to lack of resources, in the Australian country, an intern or junior practitioner will likely be thrown it at the deep end and expected to help-out as and when necessary - despite perhaps not having had the conventional surplus of training that would be atypical within urban hospitals. Medical interns/juniors in the city are perceived as being at the very bottom of the pile and have very limited roles. They may have to work hard for a number of months to gain token as medical practitioners whilst the “all hands-on deck” approach in rural context means that interns/juniors may have to learn very fast, push themselves outside of their comfort zones and improvise where necessary. 

In addition, in most rural training hospital, a medical team is made up of 4-5 members, being a part of such a small team will mean that you will be able to build solid relationships with your colleagues.  Sources suggest that senior doctors in rural areas tend to have a strong interest in mentoring their juniors, particularly if the interns/junior doctor is enthusiastic and keen to learn. As the intern/junior on a rural team carries quite a bit of responsibility, consultants tend to recognize that it is in their best interest to foster a good learning relationship and help their junior doctors develop into the best possible clinician. Because of the relatively small medical community, it is common for a junior doctor to work with a number of consultants, and it is typical to find at least one or two senior clinicians who will become their informal mentors.

Despite common misconception, ‘going rural’ may offer up an abundance of opportunities. With an increasing demand for medical labour in the Australian country and a plethora of positive reasons to make the leap – trading the hectic for the homestead may not a bad idea after all.

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