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A special breed: The multi-faceted GP training experience at Mount Isa

30th September 2021

Growing up on a rural cattle property, JCU GP medical educator Dr Don Bowley saw first-hand the need for medical care in remote and regional communities and a desire to work in country medicine was sparked.

“I find the people in remote communities to be extremely welcoming. They are strong communities with a special breed of people who choose to live there. We truly get the appreciation of the people that we care for, and we get to make a real difference in their lives.”

Training as a rural generalist GP, Dr Bowley became attracted to working with the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) and has been with the service for the past 27 years. He is currently Senior Medical Officer at the RFDS base in Mount Isa.

“Being with the RFDS means you get the opportunity to provide care to the most remote and rural people in the country.

“The RFDS is the longest continuously operating aeromedical retrieval service in the world and was actually founded in this region, starting in Cloncurry in 1928 and then moving to Mount Isa in 1964. The RFDS founder Reverend John Flynn was a pioneer in setting up health services for remote Australia and happens to be featured on the Aussie twenty dollar note. We are in the birthplace of the RFDS and I’m proud to be here.”

The RFDS base in Mount Isa is credentialed for training for both FRACGP and FACRRM as well as for the independent pathway with ACCRM.

“Registrars here get to do a lot of emergency work and retrievals with the RFDS. You’ll be going out to care for people with injuries and illnesses that require them to be brought to a major hospital. And that can be anything from critical patients to patients with lesser illness or injury but who still need to be treated in a hospital. Even if the RFDS is not for you, the training we offer in retrievals and in preparing patients to be transported to bigger hospitals is important for anyone wanting to do rural and remote medicine as a career.”

In addition to gaining experience directly with the RFDS, registrars on JCU’s GP training program also get valuable exposure to a range of remote and rural outreach work.

“You get the opportunity to go out and do your GP clinics in very remote locations that may not have any onsite doctor, that may just have a single remote area nurse or even no health professional at all. So you get to experience the challenges that these remote communities experience first-hand. Exposure to rural and remote medicine is a very different environment compared to people living in urban Australia. There's generally much less positive health outcomes and a higher burden of disease.”

Telehealth consultations also play an important role in the GP training program at Mount Isa. “When you're the on-call doctor, you’ll be taking lots of calls from locations across the region, calls from directors of nursing and from the general public. You’ll be assisting them with their care and prescribing a range of medications. So all in all, I would say that the training on offer at Mount Isa is a terrific mix of General Practice, telehealth and emergency work that will prepare you extremely well for working in regional and remote Australia in the future.

“And even if you don’t end up working in remote medicine, you’ll still be getting a range of excellent training experiences that will be of benefit anywhere.”

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