When Dr Yaritji Green completes the new Australian General Practice Training Program, she’ll join a growing breed of doctors known as Rural Generalists – or “GPs Plus”.
Yaritji and Dr Yasheen Sewnarain are the first two doctors to take part in a new shared-training pilot scheme launched in South Australia this month by the Royal Flying Doctor Service in conjunction with Port Augusta Hospital and with the generous support of GPEx
RFDS Clinical Director, Retrieval Services Dr Christopher Buck said RFDS clinicians were regularly called upon to be medical “jacks of all trades” – moving from primary care to emergency evacuation to telehealth support and everything in between depending on the needs of the rural or remote community.
“RFDS doctors need to be versatile, that’s what the Rural Training Program is about. We have a fantastic hospital system in South Australia and great infrastructure in rural areas. We have always had good GPs, but training as a Rural Generalist is like becoming a ‘GP Plus’,” Dr Buck said.
“You need a unique skill set to work for the RFDS, so by bringing in new trainees directly out of their internship, we can train them in Rural Generalist thought processes right from the word go.”
For Yaritji, 43, the idea to move into medicine was what she calls a “later in life” decision.
It was brought about partly when, in 2006, her mum had a heart attack.
Yaritji, who was home with her mum when it happened, immediately started CPR, a move that probably saved her mum’s life.
“Mum was taken to the Queen Liz (Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Adelaide) and about 3 o’clock the following morning the cardiologist came and told me that they had nearly called it on mum, once in the ambulance and once in the hospital. After spending a week in an induced coma, she pulled through,” she said.
“They told me she survived because when it happened there was someone on the scene who knew CPR and used it - that got me thinking.”
That thinking, about how much more she could do with a medical degree, eventually led Yaritji to medical school.
“It was funny, most of the other students had always wanted to be doctors - either their parents or their grandparents had been and they were following in their footsteps. Me, I’d always wanted to be a librarian,” she said.
In fact, Yaritji had succeeded in that career goal and was working as a Reference Librarian at Flinders University and halfway through her Honours degree when her mum had the heart attack.
“I’ll admit, I did a bit of ‘umming and ahhing’ before making the step,” Yaritji said.
“It’s not always been an easy journey, but here I am.”