This is by no means an exhaustive list of advice and of course, every one of us is different in our approach to work and life in general, however after working in rural general practice for several months now, I feel I have picked up on a few things which may help others to settle in to a country town smoothly.
1. Take time to ‘smell the roses’.
Rural general practice can be busy and stressful at times, especially with frequent on call and demands on your time, especially as a registrar when you are studying on top of working full time, and often feeling out of your depth due to lack of experience. It is therefore really important to get out and about, and enjoy some of the local scenery. Even better, do this whilst being active – this will help improve your mood and your sleep, not to mention your overall cardiovascular health. Often there are groups of people going for walks or rides in communities; joining one of these groups can be a nice way to get to know people better in the community.
2. Get to know the locals.
People really do appreciate it when they see you making an effort to be a positive part of their community. Whether this is through sports or social activities, or just saying hello to people down the street or in the supermarket.
I suggest joining a sports club, book club, coffee club, church, the CWA or whatever takes your fancy. Just get out of your house and do something other than work and study for a change!
It also gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that my ‘usual’ coffee is known at the local cafe – it’s called a ‘Mel’ – this makes me feel rather special!
3. Take pleasure in the small things.
For example, patients having a sense of humour despite adversity, like my 60 year old male patient with metastatic prostate cancer who presented with a food bolus obstruction in his oesophagus who said, when I suggested he may require a drip, “I’m already enough of a drip!”
Or my 70 year old male patient who had a below elbow arm amputation from an old war wound who had sustained a laceration on said amputated arm, feigning agony with “ah, I’ve chopped off my arm!” when I entered the treatment room.
Or my 80 year old female patient with malignant ascites of unknown primary who required an ascitic drainage saying “yeah, it’s full term, kicking and ready to come out!”
Bless their cotton socks. Love it.
4. Know your limits and know when to ask for help.
No one likes a hero at the end of the day – especially if, by trying to be a ‘know-it-all’ you cause further problems which could end up as a legal case, or worse still, severely injuring or killing someone. If you don’t know what you are doing, for goodness sake, be courageous enough to admit it, and then find out how to do it so you can learn from the experience and deal with it next time.
5. Be nice.
Get to know all of the names of the reception staff, nursing staff, allied health staff and other doctors in the clinic. Ask people how their day is going – and be genuinely interested! Bake cakes for your colleagues. We have ‘cake day’ every Friday at my clinic and it’s a really nice way to build morale in the clinic as a whole, as well as an excuse to enjoy some delicious home-baking.
Happy doctoring in the country!