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Island life and general practice training

30 August 2017

It was a spontaneous decision by James Cook University (JCU) registrar Dr Emma Pickstone to move her family to a tropical island in order to take up a job, but one she is glad she made.

Dr Emma Pickstone is completing the final stages of her general practice training on Thursday Island in the Cape and Torres region of far north Queensland and says it’s been a wonderful experience for both professionally and personally.

Dr Pickstone was drawn to rural medicine while completing medical school at the University of Queensland and is completing general practice training as part of the Queensland Rural Generalist Program (QRGP), a state government workforce strategy conceived and managed by Queensland Health to address medical workforce shortages in rural communities. 

Dr Pickstone says she enjoys the variety that rural practice brings.

“There is no typical week here. I can go from talking to a patient in GP practice, to doing an emergency retrieval, and then onto a theatre list in one day. 

“I do a mixture of general practice, emergency medicine, retrieval work, anaesthetics, and help with the day-to-day clinical aspects of the Dialysis/Renal Unit. I also do a fair amount of on-call work, and travel to Masig (Yorke Island) once a fortnight.”

Dr Pickstone has completed advanced training in emergency medicine and anaesthetics, a Diploma of Child Health (University of Sydney)  and a Master of Tropical Medicine and Public Health (James Cook University) and is currently completing a Certificate in Clinician Performed Ultrasound.

“In the future, I want to get involved with research in specific rural and remote and Indigenous communities. I am particularly interested in emergency medicine in remote areas and the use of ultrasound in resource-limited places, and how it can assist clinical decision making.”

Dr Pickstone says her top tip for junior doctors considering a career in rural general practice is to keep your options open and gain skills as you go.

“Use your hospital years to the fullest! Ask questions, talk to people at the bedside, talk to the families, learn how to ask questions in many different ways,” she says.

Dr Pickstone encourages doctors to ensure they look after their own mental and physical health.  

“Working and living remotely can be challenging, as you get to know people and their families, and directly see how things affect the wider community.

“There can be times when doctors feel overwhelmed. If you feel stressed, sad, scared or traumatised, find a person you want to talk to, and talk to them.

Dr Pickstone says she is proud of her work, and looks forward to continuing to serve the people of Thursday Island.

“I am loving rural GP work. It is varied, interesting and challenging. Some days are harder than others, but I can't think of a better form of medicine for me.”

Dr Pickstone is on track to attain Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Advanced Rural General Practice at the end of 2017.

JCU Stories
JCU Stories

James Cook University’s GP training program supports registrars to live, learn and work alongside inspirational educators, supervisors and mentors in diverse regional, rural and remote locations across Queensland.

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