From Cairns to Broome, via Melbourne, Dr Kelly Langford’s passion for her work and patients is nothing short of contagious.
Kelly has long had a passion for Aboriginal and rural health and knew early in her medical degree that general practice was going to be ‘her thing’. Completing her rural clinical school year in Broome, she also determined that the Kimberley was quite possibly ‘her place’.
Now a junior doctor, Kelly joined the More Doctors for Rural Australia Program (MDRAP), while working for Broome Regional Aboriginal Medical Service (BRAMS).
As a junior doctor, MDRAP enabled Kelly to access the Medicare Benefits Schedule, as well as providing her with funding for continuing professional development.
“Being a junior GP in a medical practice is completely different than being a junior doctor in the hospital setting, and it took some time to find my feet.
“I had no prior GP experience before commencing at BRAMS, so I was under Level 1 supervision for my first month, and then Level 2 supervision for the remaining nine months.
“Being under Level 1 supervision meant I had access to my supervisor, Dr Jonathan Blundell, for each patient that presented, which was invaluable to me starting out in general practice.
“Contrary to popular belief, general practice provides lots of teamwork and opportunities to discuss presentations and work together for the best outcome for the patients, their families and communities,” she said.
MDRAP support payments are available to practices to help offset any loss of income resulting from supervisors being less available to see other patients while supporting MDRAP participants under Level 1 supervision.
Through MDRAP, Kelly was also supported to complete paediatric emergencies and advanced life support training, as well as supplying her with medical and therapeutic handbooks to assist her ongoing professional development.
Reflecting on her time at BRAMS Kelly said as with all new jobs there were numerous challenges including complex presentations.
“Finding the balance between treating what was presented and treating what was underlying required an additional level of care extending my knowledge and ways of working quickly to ensure I could provide the best possible care for each patient.”
“But it also taught me how to take care of myself and what my role as a GP is in the lives of my patients is.”
The transient nature of Broome’s population, both workforce and community, means that connecting with patients, following up with patients and ensuring medical care is received is not always possible and on more than one occasion Kelly found herself finding other ways to deliver and follow up with patients.
“While Broome is a hot tourist destination, in terms of medical support, it is isolated and access to specialists is not easy to come by,” she said.
“I would often go beyond what was required as a GP to ensure my patients received the medical attention and care that was needed.”
The drive to go the extra mile puts doctors working in Aboriginal health at a heightened risk of burn-out.
“The risk of burn out is real in the medical world and finding the happy medium needs attention and up keeping,” she said.
“The concern is that if doctors burn out, not only does the doctor suffer but so do their patients and colleagues,” Kelly points out.
“Some things that worked for me included; having good support at work and home and allowing a space to debrief, but not consume life outside of work.
“I also made time to hit the pavement and run long distances.”
Kelly’s time at BRAMS has solidified her desire to work in general practice and Aboriginal health.
She hopes to support patients with preventative health measures and education, rather than reactive medicine.
“I think it is also our best opportunity to connect and support our patients to live healthier, happier lives with a better understanding of how to best manage their medical conditions.”
For further about MDRAP, email [email protected]