1 July 2021
Making a difference in families’ lives
The resilience of children is a daily source of inspiration to Dr Natalee Williamson in her work at Townsville University Hospital.
“In the Neonatal Unit it is an absolute privilege to be able to look after a baby on what might be the scariest day of a parent's life, and to try to make that day just a bit more bearable,” she says.
“Watching that same baby be discharged, even weeks or months later is a huge achievement for the whole team.
“The older children are so resilient, and even in the face of illness and the unknown, they somehow manage to smile. It is such a great reminder of how important play is, and so refreshing to know that even at work the people around you will be putting in that little bit extra to make the environment as pleasant as possible for our little people.”
Dr Williamson grew up in the small rural town of Benaraby in Central Queensland and went to school in Tannum Sands.
“The lifestyle of paediatrics is attractive, the kids, the fun,” Dr Williamson says.
“You can’t come to work grumpy because you’ll have a really bad day because all the kids will be grumpy.
“I count myself to be very lucky to be working in a role that can be challenging, rewarding and fun all at once.”
She says training in the North Queensland hub has provided a grounding in general paediatrics with exposure to a wider breadth of presentations and more direct interaction with consultants than might be the case in a metropolitan hospital.
“You get more broad general paediatrics. Every kid who's sick, who walks in to ED comes under our general paediatrics team so you see everything, whereas I think if you're in the city, a lot of the really interesting kids, cases with pathologies that are a bit more rare, a bit more unique, get siphoned straight on to the subspecialty teams and you don't have as much contact with them,” Dr Williamson says.
“The other thing I get more here than I’ve got in other sites is that you work with the same bosses all the time, you get to know them a lot better. Even as a junior registrar, you have a lot of consultant contact.”
“I think the times that I've realised that this is what I want to do are the times when you're actually a little bit less supported, on night shifts, weekend shifts, when your consultant is not on-site,” Dr Williamson says.
“You admit the child yourself, you review the child, you meet the family, you get to know them well and you can call the boss from home, but you're essentially managing the kids.
“It’s just really nice when they start getting better and you realise you’ve actually made an impact and you’ll see them again in clinic in six weeks.”
She says North Queensland’s advanced training network for general paediatrics means doctors can complete their advanced training in the region, ‘so if you don't want to be moving your family every year through your training, there's actually an option to not be’.
“If you're wanting good core basic training so you can manage and recognise sick kids, then I think North Queensland is a good option,” she says.
Time with family is important to Dr Williamson, who is a mum to an eight-month-old daughter.
“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,” she says.
She enjoys the NQ lifestyle, with its beaches, walking tracks and short work commute. That’s how ‘a couple of years became another couple of years’ in Townsville.
“You can leave work and leave work at work,” she says.
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.