Collie River Valley Medical Centre
My Experience as a GP Registrar
July 2007 to January 2008
By Danielle Choy
I commenced work in Collie River Valley Medical Centre as a subsequent GP registrar, under the supervision of Dr Peter Wutchak. I worked alongside Peter, Dr Saumitra Seal, Dr Jan van Vollenstee, and another GP registrar Dr Kylie Sterry.
The practice was very welcoming when I arrived. Peter organised an orientation tour for me, which included the local hospital and refresher life support courses (adult, paediatric and neonatal). My room was pleasant and large, and conveniently located right next to the tea room, where I discovered an excellent morning tea was provided by the practice every day.
I found the practice to be clean, organised and efficient. The reception staff were very helpful, especially in sorting out my roster requests, and any enquiries regarding my pay. Angela, the practice manager, even took it upon herself to organise payment of my home phone bills. The practice had 3 rotating nurses, who helped greatly with immunisations, dressings, employment medicals and GP management plans. One of the nurses, Janet, ran a pap-smear clinic every 2 weeks, which as a female doctor, I greatly appreciated!
The practice has 2 treatment/emergency bays and 1 procedure/resuscitation room. It is well supplied with equipment, which includes diathermy and ultrasound machines, spirometry, ECG and plastering facilities. The practice is fully computerised, with the latest in Medical Director and Pracsoft software, and most computers having eTherapeutic guidelines and eMims on the desktop. All pathology results and most radiology results were checked electronically, with recall requests implemented by the practice nurses at the end of every day. As a result, very few patients with important results were missed and “slipped through the net”. I was very impressed by the practice’s recall system, which also included a daily list of patients that did not attend, for whom appropriate action could be implemented.
I shared a 1 in 5 on call roster with the other doctors, which increased to 1 in 4 if anyone was on leave. This equated to being on call 1 in 5 weekdays, and 1 in 5 weekends. The practice usually let me avoid being on call on Fridays, thus I was able to commute to and from Perth most weekends. As the drive took just over 2 hours, I would leave on a Friday night, and only return to Collie on Monday morning. I found everyone very obliging in letting me choose my own hours, and if humanly possible, all leave requests I made were granted.
Being on call involved having no appointments for that day, and seeing all walk-in patients. This was a good system, as it allowed all emergency patients to be reviewed by a doctor quickly. During daytime and after-hours on call, I was also responsible for seeing all patients who presented to the hospital emergency department, and reviewing anyone who was unwell on the wards, or at the local nursing home. Most on call shifts were relatively quiet, and for several nights, I wasn’t phoned at all. I didn’t find the weekends too bad, though the Saturday morning clinic could get very busy. At the hospital, the nurses would try to stagger all emergency patients to appear at 10am in the morning, or 5pm in the afternoon, which allowed me most of my time at leisure.
I liked Collie Hospital, where the staff were all very friendly, there was a theatre for minor surgery during the week, a 4 bed obstetric unit, onsite and on call radiology and pathology. It was a good place to practice obstetrics and/or anaesthetics as a country GP, especially as a registrar, where I was fully supported by my supervisor. I was also gained some experience in palliative care, treating patients both in their home and at the hospital.
I found the support I received excellent. My supervisor Dr Wutchak was available by phone at all times, unless he was on leave, whereupon which he would organise one of the practice partners to cover. As a subsequent registrar, I rarely had to ask anyone to come in physically, but the times I did, someone would appear promptly within half an hour. I found this most helpful, especially when dealing with obstetric cases; without question, my supervisor would rush in during the early hours of the morning at my request. I also found Dr van Vollenstee extremely helpful in dealing with surgical cases, as he worked previously as a surgeon in South Africa. He was very happy to assist and teach me in all manner of procedures, such as removing ingrown toenails, and he was also able to perform emergency Caesarean sections.
One of the highlights of my term was the practice-owned accommodation that I rented. This is a very pleasant, fully furnished 3 bedroom, one bathroom house in a quiet, pretty part of town. It is located just 2 minutes drive from the practice and the local hospital, and is therefore very convenient for on-call shifts. The house has a good sized, fenced-in backyard, which allowed me to bring my dogs (2 big German Shepherds!) to stay with me in Collie! I loved waking up to silence or birdsong every morning, and then being able to walk my dogs near paddocks and horses up to three times a day. As I was the only person staying in the house, my family was able to come and stay during the week, or during my weekends on call. Having the Collie river, lovely picnic sites at the 2 nearby dams, the Munda Biddi cycling and Bibbulmun walking tracks so close by, was all a great bonus. My family also enjoyed dining on the local beef from Harvey, and sampling the wineries of the Ferguson Valley!
In summary, I was very happy during my time in Collie. I enjoyed working at the practice alongside some fantastic staff and colleagues, loved their progressive and efficient approach to all manner of problems, and was happily surprised at the pay, which was much higher than during my metropolitan terms. The accommodation was everything I could have asked for, and the peace of the rural (but not too rural!) lifestyle made a great break from Perth.
If you’d like a bit more information about doing a GP registrar term, or working full-time in Collie, I’d be happy to be contacted through the practice by phone or by email.
By Danielle Choy