Dr Caitlin Downes - GP Synergy

Dr Caitlin Downes

North Coast

  • Applied for the 2023 AGPT program?

After being inspired by rural generalists she had worked with, Dr Caitlin Downes has completed advanced skills in accident and emergency, skills she applies in her community-based training and intends to use in a rural setting post-fellowship.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I currently live in Lennox Head and work at Alstonville Clinic. I grew up in the Northern Rivers and my family still lives here.

I completed most of my medical training in Western Australia after getting into study there and ended up staying for 8 years. I recently moved back to the North Coast to be closer to my family. I am currently working as a GP registrar after completing my advanced rural skills in emergency medicine at The Tweed Hospital.

I love living near the beach especially in an area I grew up in, I’m a keen hiker and just finished the cape to cape in WA in April and I love brunch any time of day.

Why did you decide to become a GP?

General practice offers diversity in presentations, connection with patients and community and a better lifestyle. For me though, I am 6 years out of medical school and I mostly tried specialties and found what didn’t fit until I found what did.

I worked with some amazing general practitioners in the emergency department and found them to be a ‘jack of all trades’ and this appealed to me. General practice can be so diverse, you can work in a community based clinic, rural emergency department, assist in surgery or work in sexual health or Aboriginal medical services. You can make your own path depending on what interests you and what you are good at.

What do you like most about community-based GP training?

The diversity and the people. At the clinic I work at we do see patients acutely on the day so I get to treat emergency presentations as well as chronic diseases, I never know what is coming next and I like that.

The people including the patients, receptionists, nurses and other doctors at the practice are the biggest appeal for GP. You get to know people and their families and they get to know you, you feel part of a community and help people where they are.

Why did you decide to complete an ARST in accident & emergency?

This decision all started when I got a job at Broome Regional Hospital in the Kimberley. I already liked emergency medicine but in Broome the hospital is run by general practitioners with specialty training in anaesthetics, obstetrics and emergency medicine. These doctors are amazing, and I hoped to work in a similar environment and gain the same skills so I went down the track of rural general practice with advanced skills.

What do you enjoy about living and working in the Alstonville area?

I grew up between Byron Bay and Lennox Head and attended high school in Lismore. I did all my medical training in Western Australia until recently moving home to be closer to my family.

I love working in Alstonville because these are my people. There is still a small-town vibe where everyone knows someone you do or know my family and that is a nice feeling, to belong in a community. And obviously the Northern Rivers area is magical, you’ve got the beaches, the country side and an alternate and diverse community so I am very lucky to live and work here.

Would you recommend the North Coast to doctors thinking of GP training? Why?

The North Coast is a great place to live, that is obvious with many people moving here from city areas. It has a rural feel, is close to the beach and beautiful hinterland. There are numerous great venues for art, music and food. There are many great GP practices and a complete mix of people from a lot of backgrounds.

What are your career plans after fellowship (if you know)?

I would like to continue working in a rural area. I hope to work in a mix of emergency medicine and general practice or in an Aboriginal medical service or sexual health clinic. The thing about rural GP is that you can do almost anything and I’m happy to have options.


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