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My Life As a GP

Life for me is usually more about being a mother, but every Thursday morning I and my two girls – one four years old, the other 15 months - drive two hours south of Canberra to the tiny yet important town of Bombala, where I work as a “rural” GP for two days. I have been working for almost eight years in this town – it sounds a long time, yet I am a newcomer. Why do I work in Bombala? It is a caring community of about 1500 people who work (and play) hard, and who value me. I have left for maternity leave twice now and each time I return, I feel more cherished than before. My “boss” values me – it is the only way he can leave town.

01 Jul 2012

Dr Amanda Howard
Bombala, New South Wales

Life for me is usually more about being a mother, but every Thursday morning I and my two girls – one four years old, the other 15 months - drive two hours south of Canberra to the tiny yet important town of Bombala, where I work as a “rural” GP for two days.

I have been working for almost eight years in this town – it sounds a long time, yet I am a newcomer. Why do I work in Bombala? It is a caring community of about 1500 people who work (and play) hard, and who value me. I have left for maternity leave twice now and each time I return, I feel more cherished than before. My “boss” values me – it is the only way he can leave town. 

The essentially solo nature of my work has obvious downsides but it has meant that I can make decisions alone, without another questioning or arguing. I realise that for some, this is frightening, but this is the medicine I love!

Why a GP? I admit I still get great excitement from wondering, “what will come through the door next?” and enjoy thrill of not knowing what the day will bring.

But even more than this, it is the opportunity to be so many things to so many people. Last week I was the cheerleader for a 58-year-old woman who is trying to wean herself off sedatives (and doing well); the advocate for a 63-year-old woman receiving chemotherapy who needs to receive it closer to home rather than drive to Canberra each week; the counsellor for the 31-year-old who had a miscarriage after receiving fertility treatment for more than two years; the person who provided reassurance for the 49-year-old man with haematuria, who burst into tears when I revealed that a scan showed the cause was a large renal stone rather his presumed renal cell carcinoma; I was the emergency physician for the 94-year-old man who presented with cyanosis and pleuritic chest pain; I was the interpreter for new parents of a thriving four month old who were concerned her facial rash may mean food allergy, when cradle cap is a simple problem to solve. And that was only part of the morning!

When deciding upon general practice training, a mentor motivated me by the different places a GP can work – rural, urban, city, regional, remote, overseas, in an embassy, on an ocean cruise! Yet for me now, the thrill remains not the location but the variety of people I meet and the different roles I perform for each. It continues to be an adventure!


Published: 01 Jul 2012