This workforce story is from Kiah who is working as a Rural Generalist Dietitian on Thursday Island. Kiah’s story shows that health services need to be provided in many far flung places many of which are only accessible by air. This means you have be savvy about the equipment you take and make the most of the resources you have at hand. This includes using telehealth and tapping into city based specialist care when necessary.

Because of the diverse range of skills Kiah needs to be a rural generalist, Kiah also talks of the importance of keeping up to date and accessing professional development.

Kiah’s story:

I wouldn’t say there is a ‘typical day’ for me.  Every day is very different. Working in a remote area as a rural generalist dietitian it is a very varied job. We service inpatient, outpatients,  maternity and dialysis on Thursday Island as well as providing outreach services across the Northern Peninsula and Torres Strait Area whilst also being involved in health promotion and community nutrition activities  such as cooking demonstrations, school education and food service/supply activities.

You never know what to expect for the day; we see the full spectrum of age groups and conditions so you need to be prepared for anything. The Torres and Cape HHS is also particularly challenging geographically. Many outreach sites are only accessible via air thus follow-up cannot always be timely. Being able to utilise a range of avenues for follow up is necessary however challenging.

We deal with these challenges by seeking support from specialists in particular areas, regular professional development, upskilling and clinical and peer supervision are important for practicing in diverse roles. You cannot be expected to know everything but knowing how and where to find support or information is essential.  Building effective relationships and  working closely and collaboratively with other health professionals in the district is very important for helping to improve follow-up as well as using a range of service delivery modes such as telehealth, email and face-to-face consults.

I think rural practitioners would benefit from more opportunities or support for upskilling, networking and professional development. It is very expensive and time consuming to travel to and from remote areas so when you add in course/conference registration and accommodation it can be very expensive. Also when you consider the variety of skills and knowledge you need/are expected to have as a rural generalist, regular professional development (PD) and upskilling is very important. Remote work can also be very isolating professionally so being able to attend PD and networking events is even more important when you are working in metro areas. 

I love the variety in the rural generalist role, the opportunities to be innovative and the great people that I work with. In the city you wouldn’t usually get the opportunity to work in such a diverse role and be working with such a variety of multidisciplinary teams. Here, you get to see the patient through the continuum of care which is really rewarding despite the challenges.

Living and working in small communities also means you build close working and social relationships with your colleagues which is really nice.

Supplied by James Cook University (contact: [email protected])

Kiah conference photo

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