Dr Jarrod de Jong has swapped the big city life of Melbourne for the rugged Central Australian desert, making the choice to complete his Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice training in Alice Springs. Choosing to complete his GP training in the Northern Territory has been a life-changing experience for Jarrod and his wife, Natalie, a social worker whose work is also based in Alice Springs. Jarrod and Natalie welcomed their son, Micah, into the world in 2018; born at the same Alice Springs hospital where Jarrod completed part of his training. We recently caught up with Jarrod to find out more about why this former Melburnian now calls remote NT home.
For Jarrod no work day is the same, with his placements demonstrating the wide diversity, range of career opportunities and challenging medicine that NT-based general practice offers.
“I’ve done all my GP training in Alice Springs, including Central Australian Aboriginal Congress town and remote clinics, mainstream clinics and Northern Territory Government fly-in-fly-out remote clinics,” Jarrod said.
“I’m currently completing my FARGP in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health, doing a mix of clinic and research work in Alice Springs, and remote work in the Mutitjulu and Areyonga communities.”
Jarrod said he has enjoyed all his training posts for the variety of experiences that they offered, from very remote community work to mainstream general practice in Alice Springs.
“I would have to say the commute to work via Royal Flying Doctor Service to the Docker River community stands out as a highlight though! And I am currently enjoying trying to learn some Pitjantjatjara (Aboriginal language) through my work in the Areyonga and Mutitjulu communities,” he said.
“My experience in two of the three mainstream practices in town helped me to feel as though I could work in any city clinic back in Melbourne, while my remote community work has helped to develop my confidence managing higher acuity situations that would normally be sent straight to the ED.”
Jarrod said he was drawn to general practice for the diversity of practice and flexibility in work-life balance, with the opportunity to apply his skills in any location – from metropolitan areas to very-remote and isolated locations.
“Cradle to grave medicine, men’s and women’s health, cross cultural work, and patients whom are sick, but also well people that want to stay that way – that’s what interested me in general practice,” Jarrod said.
“It’s a field that can be academic or very procedural, with the opportunity to really hone your skills in areas that interest you the most.”
When reflecting on the characteristics a rural or remote doctor should have, Jarrod listed flexibility, a willingness to adapt, resilience and a willingness to acquire knowledge and skills in a broad range of disciplines in medicine among them.
“I enjoy working cross culturally and wanted the opportunity to develop skills suitable for rural and remote work around the world, with a particular interest in working in the developing world following some experiences in Southern Africa,” Jarrod said.
“I fell in love with the Central Australian scenery, the patients, and camaraderie, skills and commitment of my colleagues.
“I love that it is a five-minute bike ride to work. A two-minute ride to the mountain bike trails. A short – or long – drive to beautiful camps or walks, often-times with few or no other people around.
“It is almost always sunny, and even though it is hot for several months a year, unlike Melbourne, there are air-conditioners and pools everywhere!” he said.
Jarrod said the remote component of GP training in the NT has changed his approach to medicine, requiring a heavier mix of acute and emergency medicine skills, as retrieval services with expert help can be hours away. The strong focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health has also been pivotal in developing his interest in this area.
“NTGPE has offered lots of support along the way with excellent training workshops and curated online resources to accompany small group learning sessions,” Jarrod said.
“They also have a really good emphasis on equipping supervisors to get the best out of registrars. And they also offer a very generous registrar subsidy policy to assist with cost of travel and courses along with other training resources.”
Jarrod hopes to continue to have a mix of town and remote work throughout his professional experience as a GP in the NT.
“Much to my mother’s dismay, living in the NT has really ruined my experience of Melbourne, and my love of the NT is fortified with every trip back south!” he said.
Interested in training as a GP in the NT? Find out more.