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Dr Matthew Chan

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New England/Northwest

How did you come to be a GP in New England/Northwest?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to do GP until I started my internship at Concord Hospital. Going through med school, I was very open to everything, I didn’t really dislike anything and there wasn’t anything I definitely wanted to specialise in. That’s probably the main reason behind how I became a GP, because of the variety.

I sat my GP training entrance exam during my internship, thinking that if I didn’t get what I wanted could sit it again in residency. I had intentions of staying in Sydney, but I wasn’t offered my first preference and ended up being offered a place in New England/Northwest (NE/NW) instead.

A combination of things made me decide to train in NE/NW rather than sit the exam again. I had always heard training was better in a rural area in terms of the experience; I’d grown up in Sydney so it was a good time for a bit of a change; I was getting married that year and we don’t have any children so it was a really good time without too many commitments; and as a bonded scholar I needed to work in an area of workforce shortage for six years, so it was a good time to do that otherwise I would have to wait until after I fellowed.

It was a huge step for us, I’d never been away from Sydney for an extended period of time, only 2 or 3 months if I was doing a rotation.

I’ve had a great experience, I’ve been happy with my training and I wouldn’t change it. If I had the opportunity over, I’d do the same. I definitely don’t want to move straight back to Sydney!

How did you prepare for moving to Gunnedah?

To be honest, before I moved to Gunnedah I don’t think I’d even heard of it. I was a bit wary of going somewhere quite small in the sense that I’d never experienced that. Initially I wanted to go to somewhere a little bit bigger like Tamworth or Armidale but it just happened that when I interviewed with the practice in Gunnedah they seemed like a really good fit and that’s why I decided to go there. The practice is really important in terms of support and I found the practice really supportive.

The practice has an agreement with the local council where they lease out a flat to doctors, it’s not free but it’s quite cheap to rent, and its furnished. They were really good, we got a dog and they let us have the dog there!

I did a lot of research into moving myself. I knew someone who had done some of their GP training in the area, and they enjoyed it. In terms of logistics and what to expect it was quite helpful. I would really recommend having a chat with someone who has trained in the area, or consider taking part in a mentoring program.

In lots of smaller towns you do other work outside of GP training like VMO work, so it was really helpful to know about that so I wasn’t going in blind.

I took advantage of other support like an ALS course that was subsidised by GP Synergy and I completed a trauma course with the Rural Doctors Network, because I hadn’t done much ED work it was very helpful. Their subsidy covered the course completely because I was doing ED work, so that was really good.

What has your GP training experience been like?

There’s quite a lot to like about training in NE/NW! The main thing is the experiences I’ve had. When I’ve had a chat to the city guys it’s been really, really different. They are always really surprised by the extent of medicine that we do, mainly having to do a lot more for patients in a rural setting before they have the opportunity to see a specialist. I found it quite difficult to begin with but in hindsight now that I’m towards the end of my training, it was great I was able to learn a lot more, troubleshoot a lot more, I got to learn things that specialists would be doing in the city.

In Gunnedah having the opportunity to do VMO work was great, patients were so appreciative. You’ve managed them in the clinic and if they’ve been really unwell that they’ve had to go to hospital, and you go and see them, they have that continuity of care.

Training with other registrars not from the area means we lean on each other a bit more than the city. I found we all got on really well, and we’d go to each other’s houses for study group.

Do you have any tips for other doctors moving to a rural area?

If you’re going to move to a rural area that is unknown to you my tip is talk to someone who’s been there. This year I was able to talk to the GPT1 registrar training in my current practice, before she moved and I think she found talking to me helpful, like I did before I moved.

Would you recommend training rurally to other doctors?

The GP transition is such a big thing, it’s definitely the biggest change I’ve had in my life. I’ve had a great experience, I’ve been happy with my training and I wouldn’t change it. If I had the opportunity over, I’d do the same. I definitely don’t want to move straight back to Sydney!

 

GP Synergy provides relocation and education subsidies for rural pathway registrars to help them prepare for their rural training. GP Synergy also offers a rural mentor program for doctors interested in talking with a rural pathway registrar about their training experience.