There’s more variety in the country, says rural doctor
Dr Angela Retchford doesn’t battle peak hour on the way to work. She takes a scenic drive through the lush wilderness of Tasmania’s Huon Valley with her dog, Ratu.
“There’s not many work situations where you can do that,” she says.
“I live in beautiful surroundings and have a glorious ride to work. My dog is a popular member of the practice. He’s our blood pressure lowering mechanism.”
Dr Retchford is the only full time doctor at the general practice in Geeveston, a town of about 800 people located more than an hour’s drive from Royal Hobart Hospital.
After working as a GP and obstetrician in mid north South Australia for four years, Dr Retchford moved to Tasmania last year to be closer to family.
“The beauty of rural practice is the sky’s the limit in what you want to do,” she says. “The scope of practice is far wider [than in urban areas]. You can be doing heaps or not much at all.”
Dr Retchford provides ante natal care, ultrasounds, minor surgery, joint injections and palliative care with patients in their homes.
“That’s outside the scope of your average urban GP,” she says. “We pride ourselves that we do our utmost to manage what we can here, but call on our specialist colleagues when required. Otherwise we’re just a referral service.”
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Dr Retchford agrees some rural communities can be restrictive in demographic, but she is thankful for the range of industries in the Huon Valley region including forestry, salmon farming and tourism as well as the mix of people of all ages from young families to seniors.
“You never know what’s going to come in the door. We get some absolute corkers. The range is huge,” she says.
“It’s a popular choice for [medical] students because of exposure to different types of practice.”
Dr Retchford says rural doctors probably work harder than a lot of her urban counterparts, but the compromises are worthwhile.
“A lot of people shy away from rural practice because they see it as more difficult or onerous. I’m the sort of person who bores easily so I like the challenge.”
Running a “cradle to grave practice” is one of the most rewarding aspects of rural medicine according to Dr Retchford.
“We treat patients who we’ve helped deliver and we see them through all their life stages,” she says.