Skip to main content

16 May 2023

An 'Accidental' Rural GP in the making

An 'Accidental' Rural GP in the making

Eager to escape the South East Queensland rat race, newly minted doctor, Tom Shannon, decided Cairns looked far enough away from the hustle and bustle.

Currently working as a GP registrar at Mareeba’s Amaroo Medical Centre, Dr Shannon says he’s truly found his groove here in the tropical north.

“After finishing medical school in Brisbane I was mulling over my preferences in terms of hospitals, I felt like doing something completely different and I haven’t looked back,” he said.

Dr Shannon said the camaraderie among the Cairns hospital doctors struck him immediately.

“The cohort of interns in Cairns were mostly JCU graduates. They were very tight-knit but very welcoming to outsiders as well. I immediately felt at home at the hospital and I continue to fall more in love with Northern Queensland the longer I am here,” he says. 

“My experience in Southern Queensland probably wasn't as positive, I remember feeling quite disjointed, like a bit of a wallflower and not really engaged. But at the Cairns hospital I immediately felt a very close, collegial atmosphere.”

The wonders of rural practice

Dr Shannon says he was drawn to General Practice because it offered the opportunity to learn a broad range of skills.

“There is really no other specialty that gives you the opportunity to do hands on work in the emergency room as part of a resuscitation team for a very sick patient, subsequently look after that patient on the ward, see them in a primary care clinic after their discharge, then be doing the anaesthetic for their colonoscopy and two months later be helping with the delivery of their baby,” he says.

“The scope of practice, even in just one location, is so broad. It keeps things very interesting, it's intellectually challenging, and there is the opportunity to carry out lots of procedural skills.

“Also, for those that have worries about it, it is pretty damn well remunerated as well.”

Dr Shannon says experiencing rural placements, including stints at Thursday Island, Atherton, Tully and Mareeba, further cemented his calling to rural medicine.

“I'd never really thought about rural medicine until I was allocated to Thursday Island,” Dr Shannon says.

“I was immediately awestruck by the doctors, they are so skilled, so adaptive, they manage all sorts of medical presentations.

“These doctors were looking after everything, they do it all themselves often without some of the high-tech equipment, like for example, a CT scanner.

“They were able to conduct different investigations or knew how to work within the realm of what they had. It was so impressive, I left Thursday Island thinking this is what I want to do.”

Thinking about following Dr Shannon’s path?

Inspired by Dr Shannon’s positive experience in the North? Here’s his advice to graduates…

“Think about the benefits of escaping the rat race, come to Northern Queensland and try out general practice training.

“You will experience the most enthusiastic, broadly knowledgeable, capable, engaging doctors to work alongside and learn from. I think it’s the perfect place to practice,” he says.

“To any current students reading this, I would just again highlight the broad opportunities that are available to GPs, there is a lot of freedom and so much room for the development of special skills in multiple areas of medicine.”

Dr Shannon recommends those interested in pursuing general practice training access as many different rotations as possible to get a broad base of knowledge and skills.

He says rotations in emergency, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology, anaesthetics, general medicine, and general surgery proved valuable starting points to build up his broad skills base.

NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

Cairns region
(07) 4226 8187

Central West region
(07) 4764 1547

Mackay region
(07) 4885 7122

North West region
(07) 4764 1547

Torres and Cape region
(07) 4095 6103

Townsville region
(07) 4781 3424