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18 May 2022

A will to succeed: My path into medicine

A former elite judo athlete and nurse, Dr Celeste Barrington took an unconventional path into medicine.

Dr Barrington, a Medical Education Registrar and Emergency Department Senior House Officer at Townsville University Hospital, shares her medicine story and her tips for students and junior doctors deciding on a specialty pathway:

Medicine was always my dream, but juggling rigorous training and a heavy international competition schedule representing Australia in judo meant my sporting aspirations took priority at the time and I didn’t finish high school. I studied nursing as a stepping stone to medicine in the hope it would one day make me a better doctor. In 2014, after four unsuccessful applications to study medicine domestically, I applied to Oceania University of Medicine and was accepted. 

I thought I was good at juggling until I hit med school. My MD degree took me four and a half years to complete. During this time, I had two babies, worked as a clinical nurse 0.6FTE in PICU/ICU and studied fulltime.

As an international medical graduate, I had to pass the Australian Medical Council examinations prior to being able to apply for registration with the medical board. In 2020, after 21 years as a nurse, I realised my dream to be a doctor and started my internship at Townsville University Hospital. 

My life experiences, motherhood and the obstacles I have faced on my journey in medicine have influenced my trajectory and resulted in me having very different career goals now to what I did 10 years ago. I am no less motivated to have a successful career in medicine, but my perspective and priorities have definitely changed.

I am currently the Medical Education Registrar and I work within the Medical Education and Workforce Service Team at Townsville Hospital and Health Service (THHS). My role is to provide support to our interns and Resident Medical Officers. I work collaboratively with the Mater Medical Education Unit, James Cook University Townsville Clinical School, Northern Queensland Regional Training Hubs and the Clinical Simulation Centre to facilitate workshops and educational opportunities for our junior doctors and support doctors in difficulty.  My other key portfolio is oversight of our Prevocational Medical Accreditation Queensland (PMAQ) accreditation for our Intern Program.

I completed most of my rotations locally in Townsville as a non-JCU elective student. I was very much supported by the Clinical Dean and JCU Clinical School staff. I spent most of my time attached to a JCU fifth-year group and was able to participate in tutorials and other educational opportunities, which enabled me to network and further build on my existing professional relationships across THHS.”

Dr Barrington’s top tips for a student or junior doctor deciding on a specialty pathway:

  • When deciding on a specialty, the key considerations will likely be slightly different for all of us, and I think it can change at different stages of our lives. It’s important to consider your interests and passions, personality type, values, family/work life balance goals, length of training pathway, availability of positions long term, and financial goals.
  • Make sure you take the time to explore different rotations and options. You don’t have to decide your long-term career pathway while you are still a medical student.
  • Consider your personality type. Are you naturally suited to your chosen career or are there things you need to work on to make you better suited?
  • Do your research. Find out as much as you can about different pathways then compare them. It’s OK not to know or to change your mind. Don’t simply pursue a pathway because someone else says you would be good at it. Consider your own motivation, goals and values.

NQRTH connects medical students, intern and junior doctors with a network of opportunities and resources designed to create a supportive and clear path to specialist (including general practice) training, and beyond, in our regions. Our network works together to strengthen medical specialist training with the view to build a health workforce prepared to meet the health needs of our regional and rural communities in Cairns, Central West, Mackay, North West, Torres and Cape, and Townsville. NQRTH is facilitated by James Cook University, who partner with hospital and health services and training providers to create a connected career pathway beginning at the medical undergraduate level right through to fellowship.


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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Townsville region
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