Training with the Royal Flying Doctor Service Dr Chris Diehm is enjoying the variety of medicine he sees in rural and remote general practice as well as utilising his procedural skills in aeromedical retrievals.
Why did you decide to become a GP?
Focusing on one particular medical speciality wasn’t my interest – seeing people with undifferentiated presentations and working with patients of all ages and demographics was more appealing.
General practice is a very flexible career option, which gives you the ability to change focus and interest throughout your working life.
What do you enjoy about rural and procedural general practice?
I enjoy the variety of the work. In an average week I will work in the GP clinic at the RFDS base and fly to remote clinics all over Far Western NSW and into South Australia.
Patients are very appreciative of the medical care they have access to – in some of the remote communities that I visit, they only have a doctor visit once a month.
Working in the GP clinics and the emergency department, caring for inpatients and providing more specialised skills in anaesthetics and obstetrics to rural communities is very fulfilling.
I also have shifts as the on-call retrieval doctor where each shift is different, and you never know where you might fly to that day – it’s a pretty exciting job!
It’s also a unique way to utilise the procedural skills I have attained during GP training.
What does retrieval medicine involve?
We work as a small team (doctor, nurse and pilot) attending primary scenes (motor vehicle accidents/remote stations) or small health services staffed by remote area nurses.
When on call, we may be required to attend any type of emergency in Far West NSW or North Eastern South Australia. These may require skills in anaesthetics, emergency medicine or obstetrics.
Aeromedical retrieval provides many challenges including planning the logistics of the retrieval, providing phone advice to the scene before arrival, assessing and treating the patient in very remote and isolated areas, and then selecting an appropriate destination to transfer the patient to.
The RFDS provided me with excellent training in preparation for undertaking retrieval medicine, as well as extensive in-house retrieval training. I feel this equipped me very well for the job.
If you’re thinking of undertaking emergency or anaesthetics as your procedural training, then I’d highly recommend considering using your skills in this unique way!
What about challenges?
The remoteness offers challenges. It means that as a rural GP you are required to extend the level of care perhaps beyond what you would do in a suburban area, where access to other specialists is more readily available.
I find in my practice we utilise telehealth services to be able to provide consultation for patients in some remote areas. When providing care for patients, you need to be mindful of logistics, ability to follow up and lack of access to services such as allied health.
What’s it like living in Broken Hill?
Broken Hill is a mining town, but also has a strong art and tourism culture.
My family and I have settled in well and are enjoying Broken Hill. Our children are involved in activities on almost all days of the week!
We’re enjoying bushwalking, fishing and going exploring around the local area.