|It can be lonely out there|
Rural Health - the real challenge.
As you may know, I took a few years off from clinical medicine as the emotional strain from caring for patients was hard enough, but running a practice was even harder! Now I've chosen to return to Family Medicine, but this time as a Locum GP, and I've chosen to help patients in the rural community. And it's been great!
Firstly, country people are different and have different problems. They're different in that they're more 'forgiving' and they're more thankful: I had four 'Thank You' cards from one practice after just one three week Locum! But they face their own challenges too. Obesity is a big issue - excuse the pun - and is only compounded by the sense of inertia that occurs in small country towns. With the obesity of course comes Type II Diabetes with all it's insidious complications.
Then there's a big issue with Chronic Pain Syndromes and the use of powerful analgesics that are being used to control them. It's a real challenge in such a short period of time to educate such patients on pain modulation, alternative treatments and the ancillary lifestyle modifications availabe. The resources needed are limited - professionals such as myself, clinical Psychologists and dieticians are nearly all FIFOs which makes continuity of care a real challenge.
And that leads to the one constant gripe of so many rural patients - with the inevitable question being asked "How long are you here for?" They feel that they are constantly having to repeat their stories to new faces (and despite computerised medical records, getting up to speed in 15 minutes in a complicated history is a tough gig even for someone with years of experience) and many patients have literally given up trying merely limiting their consultations to requests for 'a new script'!
Our full time GP colleagues are bearing an enormous load in very isolating circumstances. I can fully understand why a female GP graduate with a young family would find it daunting to embark on a career in a remote rural practice. She would face so many professional and domestic stresses for which there are few practical answers. One may be to utilise the skills, knowledge and experience of those retired GPs who are looking for that something extra in life rather than playing bowls or embarking on another cruise, and developing an efficient, effective mentoring service!
Another would be to support groups such as the Australian Doctors Spouse Network that's been established to support Fellowship spouses in their un-ending merry-go-round of moving from hospital to hospital over their 6 to 10 year training. This group are aware of the challenges their partners face - perhaps Rural GPs Spouses can work with them to build support for their craft too.
Because at the end of the day, we're there to supply Health and Wellness information to our patients. We're there to support our patients when they're struggling. We're there to be their advocate when they have nowhere else to turn and to constantly remind them how special they are and why health is such a valuable commodity.
At the end of the day it's all about our patients, and we can't do that properly unless we look after our Rural Doctors too.