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While a career as a full-time jetsetter may have been her original ambition, the career path Dr Kelly Ridley has carved out in psychiatry is also on the up and up.

The 2019 WA Rural Health Excellence Awards Rising Star originally applied for medicine as an incentive to study hard at high school.

“That was obviously quite a successful tactic and led to me being accepted into medicine,” Kelly said.

“I have always been curious about people; what motivates them and makes them tick. Some people would call that being nosey, but I like playing detective and putting information together to come up with a solution.”

It is this insatiable curiosity that led Kelly try her hand (and mind) at psychiatry during her junior doctor years.

“Psychiatry suited my interests and skillsets; I was accepted into training and here we are.”

Prior to her intern placement, Kelly had never visited the Great Southern; she is now a consultant psychiatrist with WA Country Health Service and clinical director for the region!“It is a different kind of challenge, but one which lets me have more control over the direction and culture of the department, which is fantastic.”

With the opportunity to witness both short and long-term benefits in the community, Kelly says working regionally is varied, interesting and rewarding.

“Many colleagues have been in the same roles or service for a long time, because they love the culture here and they love caring for people in the same community and that enthusiasm is contagious.

“You truly work as part of a team in a regional location. I like knowing who my colleagues are and them knowing who I am; I think it fosters a culture of kindness within the local medical community.

“If you are accessible, you can positively impact your patients, their friends and family and employers, as well as helping your colleagues through sharing your knowledge and experience.”

“The other bonus is that at the end of the day I walk out of the hospital and see the hills on one side and the sea on the other – it doesn’t get better than this.”

Now well entrenched as a member of the local health fraternity, Kelly has been involved in numerous initiatives, including smoking cessation projects, the GP Psychiatry phoneline and the creation of the Rural Psychiatry Training WA program.

“One incredible aspect of working rurally is the enormous impact you can have; there is so much scope for new projects and service improvements.

“The Albany Health Campus and psychiatry training in WA have changed so much in the past ten years and working rurally has allowed me to be a part of that.

“I’ve been here long enough now to see medical students and junior doctors who have come through Albany and have carried that spirit of collegiality and communal learning forward to other roles.”

“Although we must tackle the idea that the most interesting medicine and best care comes in tertiary centres. We are not the poor country cousins; the patients at our health campus receive an amazing service.”

Despite originally coming to Albany for two terms, Kelly doesn’t see herself leaving the region for some time yet.

“I have been all over Perth and to Melbourne searching for a better place to work and I haven’t found it. “I have loved it from the moment I started, and I just keep coming back.”

The Rural Psychiatry Training WA (RPTWA) program welcomed its inaugural cohort of trainee psychiatrists in February 2023.

Led by WA Country Health Service, the Australian-first program saw 23 doctors kickstart the next chapter of their careers in the regions. The program allows them to live, train and practice in country WA from internship through to Fellowship.

Accredited by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP), the program is the first dedicated rural training zone in Australia or New Zealand.For more information visit: settle-into-country-WA-as-part-of-Australian-first-rural-training-program

Acknowledgement of Country