Dr Sara Berry is training on the composite pathway, choosing to spend an additional term in the Central West town of Orange, she has found the experience personally and professionally rewarding.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in Sydney, and this is the first time I’ve lived in a rural location. I initially completed a bachelor of psychology at UNSW but I always had an interest in medicine. After doing some travelling, I decided to start an undergraduate medicine degree at the University of Newcastle as a mature age student. This also gave me my first taste of exploring life outside of Sydney and I absolutely loved it. After completing my degree I completed my internship and residency at Royal North Shore Hospital, followed by a SRMO year at Concord Hospital.
Why did you decide to become a GP?
I love all areas of medicine and all age groups. The variety is stimulating, and I like the challenge of not knowing what’s going to walk through your door next. I love the continuity of care, and the chance to get to know patients over a long period of time. I also often get to meet all the members of the same family, and even across generations.
What have you enjoyed about your rural rotation?
So many things. It has been great meeting new people. The whole experience has really pushed me outside my comfort zone.
I have learnt a lot about different benefits and challenges experienced by rural communities, particularly with regards to access to allied health services and subspecialists.
It has also been great to get to know a new town and explore regional NSW, and Orange has a lot to offer with great cafes and wineries to visit.
Have you encountered any challenges during your rural rotation?
I think Orange is extremely lucky that it has fantastic access to healthcare, with the base hospital close-by, and a wide range of specialists and allied health. There is a mix of patients that live close by in town, but also some that live up to an hour away on their farm. It makes you more mindful of the logistics of investigations and follow up when it’s not always easy to get patients back in for a face-to-face consult.
How easy did you find it to relocate for your rural rotation?
It was surprisingly easy. There was plenty of support through GP Synergy that was easy to access, and a rural support officer who was available to answer any questions I had.
Did you take advantage of any support/incentives? What were they?
The reimbursement of moving costs made a huge difference because the cost of removalists to travel this far was significant, so being able to access this took a lot of stress out of the move.
Do you have any tips for registrars moving from the city for rural GP training?
It is helpful to visit the area before applying for and accepting a job. This helps with planning your move and knowing which part of town you would like to live in. I also researched things to do in the area and prior to moving, I had a list of all of the sights, restaurants, cafes, and wineries I wanted to visit.
Have there been any benefits to training in a rural location during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Definitely. There have obviously been a lot less cases here. It’s also been a good time to be in a larger house when we have had to isolate. It is generally less crowded in public spaces so that helps with social distancing. In terms of the practice, they have been great in ensuring a safe work environment and we have had a steady flow of patients throughout the pandemic thus far.
Would you recommend other registrars undertake a rural rotation during their training?
Absolutely. I am so glad I have had this learning opportunity, and I would highly recommend a rural rotation to other registrars.