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Want a wide scope of practice? Go regional

“Why limit yourself to one area of medicine when there's so much interesting stuff that you can be involved with?”

That’s why RACGP 2016 General Practice Registrar of the Year, Chris Hughes, loves to work in a regional area. That and the welcoming community and the enviable work-life balance.

“Probably the most important reason that I love working in Wynyard is the scope of practice,” he said.

“When you’re working in a big city it's all very super specialized. You work in your area and you refer on. In rural Australia there isn't the same level of availability of these subspecialties, so your scope of practice increases. You have to learn about a wide variety of medicine and health to manage patient needs.”

Dr Hughes interfaces with the rest of the clinic. They have GP’s, nurses, a general physician, a psychologist, physiotherapists and an audiologist's. They all work together to get the best result for the patient. This kind of cross-section of professionals is typical of regional practice.

“In urban medical practice, you tend to have separate practices for each area and you can refer between.

Dr Hughes says that in regional areas there's a scarcity of resources so everyone bands together in the one place. This is both better for patient care and a great way to learn more as a GP.

“Working side by side with other allied health professionals means you develop better relationships. You walk down the hallway instead of picking up the phone to someone you haven’t met. And you learn a lot. It becomes more of a team learning exercise.”

Chris is from Burnie, so the North-West Coast is home, but he spent a few years in urban practice in Melbourne, Sydney and Darwin. He loves living and working in a regional area.

He also says there’s no better opportunity to become part of a community, because the role GP’s play is so crucial.

“In regional Australia you pretty much know every patient you see. I thought it was a big clich√© that developing a relationship with your patient is really nice. But now that I've done general practice for a few years I can actually confirm that it is a really nice part of the job. I think you get more of that in regional Australia than you do in the urban setting.”

Chris feels most comfortable in a place where the pace of life is slower, where you don’t have to spend half an hour in the car to get to work and you've got more time for your extracurricular activities.

“You can do the same job anywhere right because people are everywhere, and people need health care workers. So if you can take your job anywhere why not take it somewhere beautiful where you can relax and enjoy your life?”

Chris’s five top tips for placement:

  1. Don’t stress. If people have asked for students they are generally very keen teachers, so they will be friendly and nice.
  2. Make sure that you are punctual. Being on time is important for supervisors organising their working day.
  3. Hang around for lunch. It’s nice for doctors and nurses to get to know their students in a less formal environment and vice versa.
  4. Know your limitations. You don’t want to be put in a position where you compromise your ethics or your safety.
  5. Speak up and ask for help. That’s what your supervisors are there for. We won’t always know you need it, unless you tell us.

Dr Chris Hughes was the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) General Practice Registrar of the Year in 2016. The award recognises the strong commitment made by a general practice registrar to learning, the general practice profession and the provision of high-quality patient care.

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