GP Life - An Insight into Locum GP Work in Rural Australia

GP Life - An Insight into Locum GP Work in Rural Australia

Wendy Sexton is a locum GP with a broad portfolio of experience in a variety of settings, including rural and remote communities. We asked her to tell us about her life as a locum GP.

What made you decide to become a locum GP?

Six years ago, I decided I would locum for a while to reconsider my next move and try to find that elusive work-life balance. It was only supposed to be for a year, but the lifestyle and work really suited me.

Wendy GPWhat do you think are the key benefits of working as a locum GP?

I love the flexibility and freedom that locum work gives me. I can balance my desire to live in the city with the medicine I love doing, which happens to be in rural areas. I can also pursue my other interest in global health and work overseas when it suits me. Being a locum is a great way to discover a new place and style of medicine as well as experience different parts of the country. You also get to see a diverse range of practices and ways of doing things.

What were you most worried about when you decided to locum?

Would I be able to do the job? Would I be faced with an emergency I couldn’t deal with? Would I miss the relationships and continuity of care that makes general practice the specialty it is? Would I be welcome? What if I went somewhere and really didn’t enjoy it? Imposter syndrome is normal for anyone considering a new and unknown role, and I was no exception.

What was it like in reality?

Overall, it’s been fantastic. Local medical, nursing and allied health staff have been welcoming and happy to have me on board, and the same goes for the patients. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan, but the team rallies together to work through it, and you are always supported by someone on the phone to help you with difficult cases.

I choose to return to some rural communities on a semi-regular basis to build relationships and make things a little easier on myself.

You have a real interest in rural and remote communities; what draws you to these areas?

I grew up in rural Western Australia, so I have always had an affinity with rural communities. I love the medicine in rural and remote settings and the diversity and challenges it brings. I like the close-knit medical communities and relationships you build with the specialists, doctors, nurses and allied health team. Then there’s the element of adventure when heading to a remote community or outback town – this might involve a small plane or getting there by 4x4.

What are the major differences between working in rural and regional areas compared to metro areas?

As a generalist, I enjoy working across community settings, emergency departments and inpatient medicine. This may involve on-call work as well (not always my favourite)! And in northern Australia, the medicine has a nice overlap with the work I do overseas.

There’s a broad range of work available in rural Australia, so don’t let the thought of on-call or emergency work put you off – neither are essential!

How has your lifestyle changed?

I actually don’t spend a lot of my year at home. It can be a challenge, but I love the freedom. I enjoy volunteering overseas and travelling, which locum work enables me to do. I have become a well-rounded doctor. You get to learn more about yourself, what you do and don’t know, and you also get to experience and upskill in other areas of medicine.

What would be your advice to anyone considering work in a rural and remote location?

Give it a go! You will be enriched by the experience, both personally and professionally. You will be exposed to health inequality and the logistical challenges of healthcare in our vast continent. You’ll also see a side of Australia that few tourists and even urban-Aussies experience – the ‘real’ Australia.

What would be your advice to anyone considering a locum lifestyle?

Have a think about why you want to locum and what your goals are. Talk to other locums and have a chat with a locum agency to get a bit more information about opportunities and the process in general. It is helpful to think about how you can maximise the downtime and stay connected to friends and family when you are at home. Make life easy for yourself and have a routine around your locum work.

What is your next adventure?

I have a month at home locuming at a friend’s new private GP clinic in an urban setting (something I haven’t done much of for quite some time). Then I am off to Pilbara to work in a regional emergency department in a mining town with a significant Indigenous population.

To see what arriving in a rural location in a small plane is like, check out Wendy’s video here:

You can also follow her blog:

Find out more

We have a huge range of locum and permanent opportunities for GPs across Australia and New Zealand. So whether you prefer a coastal, country or a city lifestyle, let us help you ‘Say YES’ to GP life in Australia or New Zealand.

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