The Rewards of working as an Indigenous Health GP Locum

By Melinda McCarthy published on 14/07/2021 AMS, Indigenous Health, Locum work /

Last week we introduced you to two Indigenous Ochre Health employees, Practice Managers Jodi Nagy and Jasmin Fernanado. Earlier this week we had the privilege of catching up with two General Practitioners, Dr. Vini Naiker and Dr. Clare Fuller, who following on from our Naidoc Week theme, share with us some of their insights into working at an AMS.

Dr. Vini Naiker graduated from medical school in South Africa. She completed her internship at a major hospital in Durban. “I was exposed to the most amazing range of pathology and gained clinical skills from this experience. I then moved to Australia and started work as a medical officer at a regional hospital in Latrobe, Tasmania. Back then it was a 100-bed facility, which offered all the specialties, and only four junior docs to do the on-call roster. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction and exposure to a wide range of medicine. I was then lucky enough to travel the world, returned to do Obstetrics and Gynaecology rotation before starting work as a GP in 1989”

What inspired you to choose a career in medicine?

I was inspired by my ‘medical’ family. My Aunt and two uncles on my father’s side and older cousins on my mother’s side were all in the medical profession. My Uncle was a GP whose surgery was actually at the front section of his home.

What motivates you and what l from working life lessons have you gained from working with our First Nations Peoples?

I am definitely motivated by positive health outcomes for my patients and communities and supporting them through challenging times. The non-monetary rewards are the most motivating. I have learned that we can be culturally different, but good communication and empathy can build relationships. Returning back to the same locations helps with this. I have learned to respect the environment, observe nature, and be more in tune with oneself and nature.

On my very first AMS locum in Millingimbi, NT, I met a gorgeous gentleman who had very significant health issues. Two days later at the islands music festival he was performing on stage and gave me a wink! 

What are some of your favourite locum locations and where would you like to locum but haven’t yet had the chance to?

Ngukurr and Jabiru in the Northern Territory, Bidgdanga WA, and Napranum and Mapoon in Queensland. I’d like to be able to locum in Alice Springs, Central Australia as well as Nhulunbuy in the Northern Territory.

If you could make one change that would empower and improve the health of the communities your serve, what would that be?

I would like to empower women to be leaders in their communities . I belong to Zonta International,  a worldwide service organisation, and it has been demonstrated time and again that societies as a whole benefit when women are in leadership roles.  

What advice would you give to doctors considering locum work in rural areas?

Develop strong communication skills, be happy and learn to occupy yourself when working remotely. Embrace the isolation…  It’s a great time to reflect. Enjoy meeting new people and enjoy the experiences at the unique locations. 

 

Dr. Clare Fuller is a super passionate and highly skilled GP locum having first worked with Ochre in 2008. In fact, Clare still uses the welcome present she received from us all those years ago (an Australian Recreational Atlas) to help navigate herself around when she locums in rural and remote Australia as an Indigenous Health General Practitioner.

Have you picked up any words of wisdom from your years working with AMS that you’ve weaved into your own outlook or daily routine?

On my very first job in Katherine at Wurli Wurli, the first day when I arrived at the clinic I was told “don’t think you can come in here and think you’re better than everyone else." That really stuck with me. Working within an AMS – it’s less hierarchical than traditional medicine. Everyone is equal. It’s a real team effort.

Something else that has stuck with me. The Practice Manager at Charleville once said to me, “don’t think you’re going to solve everyone’s problems. Just be in tune with yourself and others.” Listening and being open to self-reflection are so important. And if it’s not making you happy choose something else.

Where is your favourite place to locum?

Kunnanarra – I love all of it. It’s magnificent – the people, the medical teams, patients, and landscape.

If you could make one change that would empower and improve the health of the communities your serve, what would that be?

We have a long way to go before we get rid of the systemic racism that does still exist. Until we accept the truth, the past, accept Aboriginals as our heritage, stop telling them what’s good for them, empower them to make decisions for their people, racism will still exist. We have to understand them – know them and listen.

Thank you to Dr's Clare Fuller and Vini Naiker for sharing your thoughts with us during Naidoc Week.

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If are a GP interested in locum work in an AMS, please get in touch with Georgia Stratford on 0426 232 081 or email [email protected]

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