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A true sea change
For Natalie Fonda, one of the hardest parts of being a paramedic was having to hand over her patients.
“I loved emergency medicine, but I didn’t enjoy having no continuity of care” Dr Fonda said.
“I had the privilege of building a relationship with my patients, being in their homes, seeing their family photos and learning everything about them, and then I would have to hand them over and never see them again.”
After six years as an advanced life support paramedic with Ambulance Victoria Dr Fonda decided if she wanted to hold on to her patients, she would have to follow in her family’s footsteps, study medicine and become a GP.
“My dad, brother and sister are all doctors, and most of them are GPs. I decided to become the fourth Dr Fonda. It was a bit of a no brainer that I would specialise in General Practice.”
After completing her medical degree Dr Fonda moved to Sunshine Coast where she trained as a GP through the James Cook University GP training program.
“It gives you the best of both worlds. You still get the emergency presentations to the GP clinic. Plenty of people walk in unwell and you have to look after them. That appeals to the paramedic in me. I also get that continuity of care.”
JCU GP Training also opened the former Melbournians eyes to the health issues facing regional, rural and remote Queensland.
“We travelled to registrar workshops all around the north and west of the state as well. It was not just about training on the Sunshine Coast. It’s about understanding the needs of regional, rural and remote Queensland.”
Dr Fonda said the program has also enabled her to pursue professional development and study for a graduate certificate in sexual health.
“For me being supported to get a sub-specialty in an area of interest is just fantastic.”
Having Fellowed as a GP, Dr Fonda is now supervising registrars and finding fulfilment in the community aspect of general practice.
“I get to see my patients again and follow up. I get to look after their kids, their mums, their neighbours. It’s all about community, which I love.”
And it’s a community and a lifestyle she admits she’d never dreamt of while living and working in inner-city Melbourne.
“We’re avid outdoors people. We ride our bikes to work and ride on the weekends as well. We live 200 metres from the beach and get there every day. I kayak and stand-up paddleboard. We also love hiking and use the weekends to explore the amazing national parks which are plentiful around here.
“Before we came here, I’d never had any intention of moving to Queensland… but we love it here and don’t have any plans to leave.”
“Every single morning I puff and pant to get to the top of the hill on my bicycle but I get there and I get these glimpses of the ocean looking down over Alexandra Headlands beach and it just blows me away, and after three years of living there riding the same route I’m still blown away, every single day. I’m lucky.”