5 April 2022
7 Reasons to do your medical training in North Queensland
Doctors are discovering for themselves why medical training in North Queensland offers a rewarding experience like no other.
The opportunities in the North are as unique and varied as the beautiful landscapes. Here are seven standout reasons we hear time and again from medical students and junior doctors on why they decided to pursue training in North Queensland.
1. Make a difference to communities that need you
If you chose to become a doctor to make a difference, then North Queensland is the place for you. With a shortage of GPs and specialist services in northern Queensland, the region’s healthcare needs are underserved and it’s impacting the health of these communities.
Dr Hannah Bennett decided to pursue specialty pain medicine training in Townsville after seeing the need for services in her role as a rural generalist in Ingham.
“I became much more aware of the lack of pain services outside metropolitan areas and decided to do my fellowship,” Dr Bennett says. “Our pain service in Townsville is the only one outside of the southeast corner of Queensland.
“There's a severe lack of specialist pain services not just for rural and remote Queensland – First Nations people are underrepresented in referrals and that's not because they don't have persistent or chronic pain, it's just that they don't have access to services that are safe and culturally appropriate.”
By being where the need is, you will be playing a significant role in improving the health of rural and remote, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
2. Get hands-on experiences you won’t get in a metropolitan setting
With need, comes plenty of opportunities. Trainees in northern Queensland generally have a more varied caseload and hands-on training experience due to a lower ratio of trainees per consultant.
Dr Farah Aziz is an Emergency Medicine registrar who is loving the challenging and fast-past environment of the emergency department at Mount Isa Hospital.
“You get all kinds of patients and all sorts of situations, from rolled ankles to emergencies and resuscitations,” Dr Aziz says. “It’s very interesting, very challenging, but also very rewarding.
“You also get to learn a lot from the training because of the smaller number of doctors who are based here, which means you get a lot more opportunities to be hands-on.”
3. Fast-track your learning with diverse clinical cases
Want to rapidly grow your competency as a junior doctor? Challenge yourself with clinical diversity and exposure to a wide range of medical scenarios and case variety.
For Dr Gia Cavalieri interning at Mackay and Proserpine was an experience where she has grown and flourished as a doctor. According to Dr Cavalieri, a key element to her growth has been the diversity and range of medicine she’s seen in Mackay and Proserpine.
“On day one of the week, you could be learning how to run sedation in a scope list with an anaesthetist. Day two, running an antenatal clinic with the boss. Day three, assisting in a caesarean section. Day four, learning how to manage a fracture clinic. Day five back in Emergency again seeing a patient with an Irukandji sting, which is the very nasty jellyfish we get up here. As an intern, it is such an incredible experience.”
Dr Farah Aziz says that training in Mount Isa, with 25% of its population identifying as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, has improved her ability to provide culturally appropriate medical treatment.
“There are different nuances when working with patients from this region. We see a lot of Aboriginal patients and people who come from very remote communities who, by the time they get to us, can be critically ill.
“You can’t always do the same thing for every patient; you have to adapt and modify the treatment according to their social or cultural needs. Doing my training here has increased my cultural awareness and cultural capability,” Dr Aziz says.
4. Pursue unique research opportunities
There is no shortage of research opportunities on offer in North Queensland for doctors in training. With a focus on addressing health issues affecting the Tropics and Northern Australia, James Cook University, hospitals and health services, and other research institutes, conduct research projects that welcome participation from medical students and junior doctors.
Dr Anthony Brazzale is a senior cardiologist at the Cardiac Unit at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service (CHHHS). The unit is involved in a range of research studies and multicentre clinical trials. Dr Anthony Brazzale says getting involved in research can assist you in getting on a specialty training pathway.
“Research can help you in the application process because it shows initiative. From medical student to an advanced trainee, there are all levels of training involved in research here. If you show the initiative and you’re motivated, as consultants we will look to support you,” Dr Brazzale says.
5. Grow in your career with supervised autonomy
With direct supervision from passionate and dedicated supervisors, you’ll have all the support you need when training in North Queensland.
Dr Nichole Harch completed specialist training as a rural generalist in the central-west Queensland town of Emerald. After completing her final training rotation in Emerald, she decided to stay because of the opportunity to work with some of the ‘greats’ of Rural Generalism who were instrumental in her development and training experience.
“As a registrar in training, I appreciated being surrounded by amazing doctors and supervisors who have walked the walk and know what is required,” Dr Harch says. “We have supported education time plus the medical educators here on-site are passionate about what they do which just makes all the difference.”
The supportive teaching environment and close contact with supervisors can also provide career progression opportunities, as Dr Helen Buschel can attest. Working in Cairns and Townsville hospitals, she developed close working relationships with supervisors who provided references for her to apply for specialty training in paediatric surgery. She was successful for selection as one of only 2 trainees across Australia in 2021.
“Up north, you get to be far more involved. You have plenty of opportunities to get your referees and talk to the bosses and have them support you,” Dr Buschel said.
6. Feel supported by a close-knit team and friendly community
The camaraderie across the rural health workforce, and out into the community, is sure to make you feel welcome.
Dr Munad Khan is a urology registrar at Cairns Hospital. He says the connections made with colleagues have been the biggest advantage of undertaking his surgical training at Cairns Hospital.
“You get to know everybody on a personal level. I see my colleagues outside of work regularly and we do other activities, which is great. It makes Cairns a potential place that I would want to settle down in, compared to working in a bigger hospital where you are just one of a crowd, where no one gets to know you.”
“Having close connections with colleagues has also enriched my professional relationships. I know I will be able to call on my colleagues for help or advice throughout my future training and career.”
The supportive working environment and relaxed pace of life in rural Queensland contribute to a positive work-life balance. It’s an important feature, particularly for those who are raising a family as they work and train.
Time with family is important to Dr Natalee Williamson, who is a dual trainee in general paediatrics and neonatal and perinatal medicine, and mum to a young daughter.
“You can leave work at work,” she says. “Finding the balance between work and home will always be a challenge, I am sure, but having a supportive team and unit makes it so much easier,” Dr Williamson says.
7. Experience work-life balance and plenty of adventures
Discover vivid and diverse landscapes in northern Queensland. From beaches, mountains, spectacular rainforests, rich farmland, to wide savannah country, wilderness, and the red soil of the Australian outback.
Training at Cairns Hospital, Dr Helena Franco is an orthopaedic registrar who made the most of the tropical paradise surrounding the coastal city.
“It’s the best of both worlds. You’ve got the reef right there and you're surrounded by rainforests - what more could you want than to spend your time in this kind of environment! I'm a very outdoorsy person so I love getting out to the reef for snorkelling and scuba-diving.
With a thirst for adventure, Dr Marie Tran was drawn to the north Queensland city of Mackay for her intern year. The tropical vibe of her rotation location of Bowen is far removed from her home in Montreal, Canada.
“I get to go swimming every day. The beach is five minutes away and if I’m on a late shift I’ll go and swim in the morning before work. There are some great perks!
“Bowen is the most stunning, beautiful area to work. There are hiking tracks that go to all the different beaches. You hike for an hour and finish up going for a swim. It’s awesome, great for snorkelling and the reef is beautiful,” Dr Tran says.
Train in some truly unique and amazing parts of Australia and discover your medical career in northern Queensland
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.
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North West region
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Torres and Cape region
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