Starting his GP training in Canberra as a general pathway registrar, Dr Justin Friedman decided to try rural training in the Murrumbidgee town of Griffith. Finding he enjoyed living and working in the multicultural town he has stayed on and is now undertaking his Extended Skills term there.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Sydney before moving to Canberra to study medicine at ANU and stayed in Canberra to do internship/residency and GPT1/2.
Even though Canberra is still a fairly large city, it was there I realised I preferred smaller metropolitan areas compared to larger ones like Sydney. Now when I go to Sydney I feel constantly irritated and on edge. I figured if I preferred smaller cities, maybe I would see what an even smaller town is like hence my move to rural.
Why did you decide to become a GP?
In a nutshell, endless scope of practice, never dull, less stress, far more autonomy, greater control of your environment and practices.
How did you come to be in GP training in Griffith?
I wanted to gain more skills which would inevitably make me a more independent practitioner as well as the lifestyle benefits of a rural environment.
I picked Griffith as it’s unlike any other rural town in NSW in that it is extremely multicultural and has a lot of very nice Italian restaurants (over half the population has Italian background). It is also very well irrigated leading to it being oddly green despite being in the outback, producing a lot of wine, rice and citrus. It would usually have a lot of festivals which are unfortunately postponed due to COVID.
What do you like about rural GP training?
Rural GP training provides a more broad experience, I see patients with later presentations of disease as well as a few more weird diseases not commonly seen in urban areas. Most specialists visit too so you are not stuck referring patients hundreds of kilometers a lot of the time.
Being so multicultural (far more so than most urban areas), I’ve been fortunate to see a large range of cultural backgrounds. Patients here seem more appreciative of the care they receive compared to urban areas (largely due to the rural doctor shortage). Income gets a bit of a boost too with higher bulk billing incentive rebates.
The travel to work being two minutes is a big plus too. Griffith has just about everything you would want too in that it has a lot of stores and some very good restaurants. Sometimes walking around town you forget you are in the middle of the outback.
Do you have any tips for registrars moving from the city for rural GP training?
Do it! It’s very fun and enjoyable.
There’s plenty to get you involved in the community too like sports teams, volunteer work etc. There’s a lot of surrounding places to visit too. I would suggest moving with a partner or family as I don’t know if I would have survived by myself. However, it isn’t hard to convince friends and family to come visit as there’s plenty to see and do and everyone is very friendly.
Have there been any benefits to training in a rural location during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Griffith has been lucky in that it has been relatively sheltered from the whole pandemic. That being said, we were prepared and had a testing center set up at the hospital which then moved to the back of our practice which was very beneficial in that anyone with URTI symptoms can be phone triaged and then examined there and swabbed in full PPE.
Even if we end up having a small outbreak here, I think we are well equipped. I didn’t see a real drop in the number of patients and maybe had a few weeks where my income dropped slightly due to enforced bulk billing but that quickly rectified itself.
Learn more about GP training in the Murrumbidgee & ACT subregion.