What you need to know about working as a Rural GP Locum

By , Melinda McCarthy published on 23/06/2021 Rural Generalism, Locum work, Ochre Recruitment,

One of the most satisfying career moves you can make as a general practitioner is to move into rural generalism: you will experience a full gamut of medical presentations far outside of conventional suburban practice, and you'll be steeped in aspects of Australian society that you would never have seen otherwise. As a rural GP, you will learn more, experience more and be paid more. But where to start, and how to make the move? That's where we come in.

Whether you’re already enjoying the full scope of working as a rural GP, or you’re training to become a Rural Generalist, or perhaps you are just starting to plan your locum calendar for the next 6 months, chances are you’ve got some questions. Let's answer some of the questions we're asked most often by GPs like you. 

How can I become a Rural Generalist?

The Generalist Pathway provides foundation training and can fast-track development in becoming a rural generalist. It recognises the extra requirements and skills of rural generalists and supports them to meet the diverse health needs of regional, rural and remote Australians. ACRRM is the professional home of Rural Generalist Medicine and the ACRRM Fellowship (FACRRM) is designed to describe the professional standards for excellence in Rural Generalist practice.

Both the ACRRM and RACGP also offer a Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice (FARGP).

What qualities or characteristics do I need to work in rural practice?

Doctors who choose a generalist career thrive on variety and a mix of GP and hospital work. Our Rural Generalists love the high degree of independence that comes with the role and enjoy growing their skillset. 

What are the benefits of working as a rural GP?

Locum rates for GPs are generally higher in rural areas than in metropolitan and regional centres, the scope of work is broader and you have the chance to deliver services in a variety of settings such as ambulatory care, home, hospital, retrieval and long-term residential facilities.

Work satisfaction is also a lot higher amongst rural GPs than their city counterparts. And last but not least, doctors who practice medicine in rural and remote regions, see Australia without the urban lens. They are often also exposed to diverse and enriching cultural experiences that just can’t be found in the ‘big smoke’.

Can I locum in rural Australia if I am not vocationally registered?

Most of our clients located in rural and remote Australia do stipulate that doctors must be VR GPs. From time to time we do get locum opportunities within the hospital space that Non-VR GPs can apply for.

Ochre Health has a program that supports non-VR GPs in achieving their Fellowship status. If you are a GP in training, you can apply for sponsorship with Ochre Health through the ACRRM Independent Pathway. The Federal Government provides $15,000 of the total $25,000 fee per participant and Ochre Health will cover the gap including the application, enrolment, education program, and training support fees. 

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

Yes. You need your ALS2 Certificate. While there may be a GP Anaesthetist on-site to assist in airway management, you will need to be comfortable and confident enough to intubate.

Ochre provides up-skilling opportunities to GPs so please give us a call to discuss how we can assist your transition to rural practice.

Can you suggest some popular locations to get started as a rural GP?

Some of Ochre’s locum “hotspots” include Magnetic Island in QLD, Broome, Bryon Bay, Tumbarumba in NSW, the fabulous Kimberley Region in WA, and of course Tasmania. Ochre Recruitment also has an exclusive partnership with Western NSW LHD to manage VMO rosters in the iconic rural towns of Bourke, Brewarrina, Coonamble, Collenarbri, Lightning Ridge, and Walgett.

How often do I get paid and what is the payment process?

You can choose when you’d prefer to be paid. Providing a timesheet is completed and submitted on time you may choose any period from weekly to 30 days.

We provide all our locum doctors with an information pack which contains current and relevant information pertaining to all the states and territories within Australia. When you locum in Queensland or South Australia with Ochre, we will pay your directly, so rest assured you will get paid on time, all the time.

Will I be paid the same locum rates as I would receive in metropolitan cities?

The good news is that because you work with a high degree of independence and tackle a wider variety of presentations than you would in city regions, you will command higher rates. Travelling to more remote locations will also guarantee you a better locum rate.

What type of accommodation is available and do I have a choice of where I can stay?

One of the many benefits of working as rural locum GP is the accommodation. When you locum at an Ochre Health Practice you have the choice of staying in lovely country style houses, big enough to bring your partner or family. Doctors generally do not like sharing accommodation as they need down-time to sleep, so our team always ensures they are provided with fully self-contained accommodation within 10 minutes of the hospital due to being on-call and for convenience.

From time to time you may be given single accommodation at the hospital. When locuming at an AMS you are sometimes required to stay on-site within the AMS facility.

Will I have to pay and book my own travel?

The booking and payment of flights, car hire, and accommodation are managed by the Ochre Locum Recruitment Team. That's all part of the FREE service we provide for our locum doctors. If you do insist on booking and paying for travel, 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.

How often will I be expected to be on-call?

The number of GPs on-site and whether the practice is a solo GP site will determine your on-call responsibilities.

It will generally be either 1:2 or 1:3.

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

While I love working in rural General Practice, I’d also like to locum in a metropolitan city from time to time. Can I do this?

Absolutely. You are among the most skilled of all General Practitioners because you can work confidently across a broad range of primary care and sub-specialties. This means you can practice almost everywhere and anywhere. Many of our Ochre locums enjoy a mix of city-based and rural contracts.


Still have questions? Please give us a shout on +61 2 9357 2448.

There is a huge demand for medical practitioners across all specialties in rural and remote regions of Australia. Communities in the 'bush' deserve access to the same levels of care and services that their city-based brothers and sisters enjoy. If you haven't already had the opportunity to 'go rural' on a locum, why not step out of your comfort zone and give it a go. 

Without your usual support and networks, you'll find yourself being more resourceful and adaptable. You'll reconnect with the frontline medical skills you learned at medical school, rely more on your clinical inclinations, pick up new methods and you'll treat a wide range of presentations.

For some further insights into the quirkier side of life as a rural doctor, you might like to read our Blog by Dr. Max Higgs, titled GP tales from the Kimberley Region.

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

Subscribe to get
the latest updates


a call