Dr Benjamin Tang is a composite pathway registrar, based in the Nepean, Western and Northern Sydney subregion he undertook his first GP term in Western NSW in the small rural town of Oberon. Enjoying his training in Oberon, including the opportunity to work at the local hospital, he elected to stay on for an additional term.
Tell us a little bit about your background
I was born and raised in Sydney. After school, I moved up to Brisbane to study medicine at the University of Queensland. I spent the next nine years there completing medical school and then residency at Ipswich Hospital. It’s a medium sized teaching hospital which services a large rural catchment as well. Working there gave me the opportunity to meet patients from diverse backgrounds and gave me insight into health issues that rural Australians face. Following this, I began my GP training and moved back to NSW to the small town of Oberon.
Why did you decide to become a GP?
I had always been interested in general practice from a young age, mainly because of my dad. He was a refugee from Vietnam who came to Australia as a teenager and worked extremely hard to become a GP. Growing up, I was able to witness first hand how much of an impact he was able to make on the local community. Whether it was increasing health awareness by working with the local council or fundraising for more aged care services, there was always something that was being done to improve the life of others.
During medical school and my early residency years, I tried to keep an open mind to possibly working in other specialties. However, the more I worked the more I realised that I wanted to become a GP. My strength has always been being able to chat and get along with people no matter their age,gender, background or religion. As a GP I get to do this on a daily basis but at the same time, uphold the values which my dad taught me to work hard and make a positive change on the health of others.
What have you enjoyed about your rural rotation?
I’ve greatly enjoyed the mix of work on a daily basis, you truly get to be a generalist. You get to treat patients in the community as their GP. If they become unwell then you might be treating them in the local ED, admitting them and doing daily ward rounds until they are discharged. After this you’ll be the doctor following them up in the community. From heart attacks to stitching up scalp lacerations to seeing an unwell child in the middle of the night, no day so far has been the same.
Have you encountered any challenges during your rural rotation?
One challenge has been the increase in responsibility and decision making for your patients. Working in the hospital system as a resident, there was always more senior help to be called upon. However, from day one as a GP registrar it’s just you and the patient in the room. Having some great GP supervisors had definitely helped ease the transition though.
The other challenge has been getting used to working in a small rural hospital where pathology can take much longer to return and allied health can be limited. You do manage to work around this by becoming more resourceful and working with some amazing nurses really helps as well.
How easy did you find it to relocate for your rural rotation?
Moving from Brisbane to Oberon was always going to be a bit tough. However, with the support from GP synergy it was actually the easiest move my partner and I have ever done.
GP Synergy gave me a generous relocation subsidy which paid for all my relocation costs (removalists, bond clean and car trips) between Brisbane and Oberon.
Do you have any tips for registrars moving from the city for rural GP training?
Be prepared for many appointments that go overtime. Some people drive long distances to see their local GP and therefore don’t come often. Try to use these rare visits opportunistically and practice some preventative health. Also if you’re coming from Queensland, pack for the snow!
Have there been any benefits to training in a rural location during the COVID-19 pandemic?
It has been much easier to spread information in a small rural community and many patients who you see often trust what you have to say. There has also been a strong community effort on applying social distancing and the uptake of telehealth, which has been used by many rural patients previously.
Would you recommend other registrars undertake a rural rotation during their training?
Definitely, I am currently less than 6 months in but I feel my clinical skills and confidence have already quickly increased. I feel very privileged to be able do what I love, in a small town with friendly people and knowledgeable supervisors.
If you’re keen to find out the opportunities on offer in rural GP training, check out our going rural guides.