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30 April 2020

Gamble into the unknown provides great dividends

Gamble into the unknown provides great dividends

Dr Kay Mbalamweshi’s move from Sydney to Mackay in North Queensland was somewhat of a gamble into the unknown but one that has certainly paid off some great dividends.

“I had just finished my studies in Sydney and was looking for a rural generalist position somewhere in Australia. I got offered a spot in North Queensland and although I had never been there, I ended up choosing Mackay,” said Kay.

 After completing her GP training in Mackay, which included a six-month medical education rotation at the hospital, Kay decided to stay in Mackay working both as a GP and medical educator for interns at Mackay Hospital.

“Part of the reason why I've stayed in Mackay is because of the huge variety of rotations that I’ve had as part of the rural generalist program and the great specialist exposure I received.”

Kay firmly believes that gaining a wide knowledge of how the different medical specialties operate has been invaluable to her work as a GP.

“All the rotations have given me different lessons to take with me as a GP. And it has been hugely beneficial for my understanding of health systems.

“As a GP I’m often going to see conditions I don’t understand and so I need to know what kind of information the specialists might need for a referral, what kind of investigations they may require me to do beforehand, and what preparations the patient might need to do.

“For example, for my rotation in radiology I got to work closely with the radiologist, asking all sorts of questions about the images we were looking at as well as doing procedures. This experience means I have better knowledge when ordering scans for my patients as a GP and what information to provide the radiologist.”

Rotation experiences in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and anaesthetics have also provided some unexpected benefits to Kay’s GP practice.

“Seeing patients in my clinic after they have been in ICU, or after they have been unconscious, I am able to better understand what the patient has been through, how it affects the family and how I can best manage that.”

Another reason for choosing to stay on in Mackay is the relationships that Kay has developed with the local medical community throughout her training journey.

“It can be a problem in bigger towns and cities where often there's this hierarchical distance between the consultants and the junior doctors. Being in a smaller town such as Mackay where we live so much closer to each other means it’s harder to create that distance. We’re all trying to create a community here and colleagues make sure to welcome you into it.”

In her part-time role as a medical educator for interns at Mackay hospital, Kay is a passionate advocate for hands-on training and believes there are more opportunities to do this in a regional setting.

“The clinical exposure that interns and junior doctors get here in Mackay is fantastic. I know that in some larger hospitals there are just so many others between the intern and the consultant that it can be hard for an intern to have an opportunity to participate in doing a procedure.

“Thinking back to my own learning, I learnt so much more when it was attached to a particular patient and situation. Evidence shows that people learn better when they get to have practice actually doing it rather than just being told stuff. So I try to facilitate a lot more ‘on the ward’ learning, a lot more individual learning and more targeted learning.”

Another important factor to enhancing the junior doctor’s training experience is the general spirit of camaraderie found among the Mackay medical community.

“The general friendliness of the medical community here means it’s a lot easier for junior doctors to call and ask a more senior doctor for advice, or ask them to come and see your patient which can often be quite challenging for junior doctors to do.

“There is also a supervisor in each department who is actively committed to junior doctor wellbeing. And that's such a big deal, knowing that you can talk to them whenever you need to.”

In addition to all the great training experiences that Mackay can offer to a GP trainee or intern, there are also some fantastic beaches and amenities that the Mackay region has to offer.

“You can't live in Mackay without being a beach person. There’s a particular beach I love that has a lot of trees so I take a hammock and stay there for an entire afternoon. I just find so much peace in doing that.

“I also go rock n roll dancing which I really enjoy with my partner. There's actually a surprising number of dance clubs in Mackay!”

Kay feels that Mackay has offered her so many opportunities both for her career and lifestyle that she could not think of a better place to be.

“Mackay has given me that opportunity to do the medicine I love. I feel so well connected here which helps me to facilitate great care for my patients. It’s been such an amazing journey and I feel very privileged to be a part of it.”

Find out more about Rural Generalist training

> Entry requirements
> Training Time
> How to apply
> Frequently asked questions


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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