What will you experience working as a Rural GP Locum?

Published on 09/03/2022 Locum work, Rural Generalism,

Whether you’ve just commenced your fellowship with the ACCRM or you’re a registrar looking for locum work as a GP VMO in a remote corner of Australia, you’ve definitely got some questions about lifestyle, working conditions, and, yes, about pay rates.

Let’s say from the outset that working in rural medicine can be one of the most fulfilling moves you can make in your career as a GP. It’s highly likely you’ll experience a full spectrum of medical presentations in contrast to conventional city practice. You’ll experience firsthand a different Australia that you’ll never see in any of our capitals. Rural medicine will enrich you as a General Practitioner and as an individual. 

Rural Communities, in a nutshell

Communities across rural Australia are broad and certainly not homogenous. They do have common features, however: they tend to be tight-knit and supportive of each other, and their resources tend to be limited. 

What are the benefits of working in rural general practice?

As a GP, you can expect higher locum rates in rural areas with a much broader scope of work, covering ambulatory care, home, hospital, retrieval and long-term residential facilities.

One of the most cited benefits from our rural generalists is work satisfaction, as they’re able to practice medicine without an urban filter. 

Other top cited benefits include:

  • Work where and how you want
  • An increase in skills and experience
  • Independence and responsibility
  • Opportunity to provide longitudinal care
  • The training is cheaper compared to other specialties, and faster
  • Making a real impact on people’s lives, and their communities
  • Meeting and working with some truly remarkable, medical, nursing and allied health colleagues.

What’s it like on the ground?

Let’s use Dr Elise Ly’s experiences in North Queensland as an example. Hospital rotations broadened her scope to encompass obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, emergency, intensive care and anaesthetics. Elise grew into and fell in love with emergency medicine and being a ‘jack of all trades’.

She enrolled with ACRRM shortly after, completing her fellowship within two years.

Some of her fondest memories as a rural generalist come from her time at Thursday Island: “Thursday Island is the epitome of rural generalism – the opportunities to work across public health, primary health care, emergency medicine, international health, retrieval medicine, obstetric and anaesthetic care in a remote setting are tremendous. That, on top of being flown in a chopper with you and the pilot over the Great Barrier Reef, spotting dugongs on the way to work. What is there not to love?” 

What skills and qualities can I expect to develop in rural practice?

A career in rural medicine is all about variety, encompassing both GP and hospital work, and you must have the confidence to work independently. You’ll be a primary care physician, providing comprehensive and preventative healthcare.

If you’re doing your Advanced Specialised Training at your rural posting you can expect to develop a suite of skills that can be applied to any community in Australia, whether it’s delivering a newborn, counselling chronic disease or serving as a first responder.

Do I need any extra qualifications or skills to work as a Rural GP?

You will need your ALS2 Certificate, and you’ll need to be comfortable and confident enough to intubate.

Ochre provides up-skilling opportunities for GPs, so please contact us to discuss how we can assist your transition to rural medicine.

What's the on-call ratio for a Rural GP?

The number of GPs on-site and whether the practice is a solo GP site will determine your on-call responsibilities, but it tends to be either 1:2 or 1:3.

Most of our rural and remote-based clients have fatigue management policies in place, ensuring that doctors get the rest they need. Phone calls can be diverted to the Critical Care Advisory Service and addressed via Telehealth.

Do I need to be Vocationally Registered to locum in Rural Australia?

This is mostly the case, however we occasionally have Non-VR GP opportunities within the hospital space. 

You may wish to consider an Ochre Health sponsorship to assist you in achieving ACRRM fellowship status.

How often am I paid and what is the process?

You choose when you’d prefer to be paid. We provide all our rural GPs with an information pack containing relevant information pertaining to all the states and territories within Australia. When you locum in Queensland or South Australia with Ochre, we pay you directly.

As you’ll be working with a high degree of independence and tackling a wider variety of presentations, you will command higher rates. The more remote the location, the better the locum rate.

What are my accommodation choices in rural Australia?

Locuming at an Ochre Health Practice affords you the choice of staying in lovely country-style houses, big enough to include your partner or family. You won’t need to share accommodation; our team will ensure you are provided with fully self-contained accommodation within 10 minutes of the hospital.

From time to time you may be given single accommodation at the hospital. When locuming at an Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS) you will sometimes be required to stay on-site within the AMS facility.

What about my travel arrangements as a Rural GP?

The Ochre Locum Recruitment Team manages the booking and payment of flights, car hire, and accommodation are managed by the Ochre Locum Recruitment Team. 

If you have your own travel arrangements, the client will always pay for travel for Locum GP VMOs, but keep in mind that some have capped travel arrangements whereby the cost is capped at a specific amount.

I’m heeding the call, but I don’t know where to start!

We have a lot of what we call Ochre Locum Hotspots, excellent spots to get started. We recommend Broome, Tumbarumba, the Kimberley Region, Magnetic Island, Tasmania, even Byron Bay (yep, it’s rural).

We’ve partnered exclusively with Western NSW LHD to manage VMO rosters in the iconic rural towns of Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Collenarbri, Lightning Ridge, and Walgett.


If you would like to know more about Rural Medicine jobs for GPs, please reach out at +61 2 9357 2448 or email our experienced team [email protected]

Medical practitioners across all specialties in rural and remote regions of Australia are in high demand. Communities in the 'bush' have a real need for the levels of healthcare that are enjoyed in Australia's capital cities. If you've not yet had the opportunity to 'go rural' on a locum, we encourage you to take the plunge and give it a go. 

Rural Medicine will reconnect you with the frontline medical skills you learned at medical school—you'll rely more on your clinical inclinations, pick up new methods and you'll treat a broad spectrum of presentations.

For a look at the quirkier side of life as a rural GP, you might like to read our latest Blog by Dr. Max Higgs, titled Rural Patient Dialogue: A Primer For Locum GPs

Alternatively, search our range of Locum GP Jobs or Register, if you are not already a member of the Ochre Community.

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