Dr Henry Kurtze’s experience as a locum in rural Australia

Rural locum - male doctor

Dr Henry Kurtze has been working in locum roles across Australia since March 2019. Currently undertaking Emergency Department (ED) locum work through Medrecruit, we asked him for an honest insight into locum work and life in rural Australia.

Henry has worked in several different rural and regional locations so far (a common experience for full-time locum doctors). He told us that his reason for locuming was simple, “Freedom. It’s allowed me to have the ability to save money and have freedom.”

Why do you choose to locum in rural locations?

There’s not much charm to working in large urban hospitals. They’re very hierarchal. The work I’m doing at the moment is all ED, emergency medicine, in smaller places like Broken Hill and Port Macquarie. Rural areas allow you to step up and do more.

Do you have any favourite locations? 

I don’t really want to say because everyone will want to go and then I won’t be able to get a placement because it will be full {laughs}. Okay – Broken Hill. It’s really bush, right in the desert. It’s very interesting, well supported, outback medicine.

Was the lifestyle good?

Not particularly in the desert. I went to work, then to the same café after work almost every day. But I’m going to go back there soon and I’ll explore, I’ll rent a car this time. It’s a solid place, an interesting location. I was recently in Port Macquarie. I could surf there every day. I had a really good time, catching good winter waves.

What’s it like practising medicine in rural locations? 

You get people who are very sick in a very isolated place  You get a really interesting mix, lots of very different cases – things to do with the environment, like issues with exposure to heavy metals, environmental infections, diesel explosions. You’re pushed to do more. It’s up to you to sort someone out until you can get them to a specialist location.

What are the first few days in a new placement like? 

Terrifying. Really intimidating. {Laughs} But I like that feeling. I used to work full time in a hospital and life can get monotonous. During locums it’s pretty uncommon to get an orientation – usually, it’s just a five-second tour in the middle of a chaotic environment.

What are the positives and negatives of doing locum work full-time? 

There’s an equal amount of stuff that I do and don’t like. It’s hard flying all of the time. You can’t be anchored somewhere; you’ve got to decide to be nomadic – or not. Unless you’re just doing odd weekends, you’ve got to commit to it.

A good thing is that you get exposed to a lot of different mentors who are generally happy to help. You can gain expertise from a lot of different doctors with different approaches and outlooks. If you keep working with different people, you learn so much more.

When you work in one place for a long time, there’s a bit of ‘group think’ – everyone assimilates to one way of working. You’ve got to go somewhere with a different way of working to learn.

Any tips or advice for doctors considering doing locum work?

Commit, and enjoy life!

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Rachael Walsh
12 September 2019Article by Rachael WalshMedrecruit Editor