A very enriching experience – Dr Joy Linton’s RAHC Story

GP Joy Linton has spent the majority of her career practicing medicine in Victoria, broken up by a decade-long stint in Nepal. 

Since returning from Nepal 16 years ago, Joy returned to her role as a country GP, living and working in Leongatha in regional Victoria with her family. A couple of years ago, with her family grown up, Joy was ready for a new challenge.

“My husband is a doctor too, and together we thought it’d be good to do something different from our normal medical work,” Joy said.

“We received a mailout from RAHC asking GPs to become involved in the program, and we thought to ourselves, ‘wow, we should do that’.  So we did! We did our first placement last year in Wadeye in the Northern Territory, and then we went back again this year.”

While Joy has now undertaken two placements in the remote community, she admits she was initially apprehensive about what lay ahead.

“It’s reasonable to say we were a little bit daunted by the thought of working remote because it’s just so different to our work here in regional Victoria. Because of the nature of the work and the isolation of the community, as well as the real cultural differences, we wondered how we would communicate”.

“But when we went out to the community it was really good.  We’d done all of research we could and we’d undertaken the relevant medical and cultural training. We spent a couple of days in Darwin participating in cultural training and we found that really worthwhile. We also found the health centre team very welcoming and supportive.”

Joy says the support she received on her placements was invaluable and helped put her nerves about the task ahead at ease.

“Being country GPs we have a different skill set.  Of course there are some medical conditions that are unique to the Indigenous communities, but we had guidance whenever we needed it.

“A lot of my time was spent seeing people with chronic illnesses and working with and educating them to help them try and understand what it means to have a chronic disease, and what can be done in terms of treatment.”

While Joy’s experience working in remote communities in the Northern Territory has been positive, she says more health professionals are needed.

“The isolated communities in Australia are very, very short of doctors. Australia probably has enough doctors, but they are concentrated in cities.  Even in country Victoria, which is not isolated or remote, there are often not enough doctors,” Joy said.

 “In the end what the communities need is for people to stay long-term, whether it’s doctors or nurses or other health workers. However by offering these placements, RAHC is facilitating a need which has long term benefits in retaining permanent staff.”

Joy found that building relationships and understanding the culture were of paramount importance during her stay in the Northern Territory and encourages other health professionals not to stop at just one placement.

“If we keep going back to the same communities eventually we can build trusted relationships. We are hoping to facilitate a group of doctors from Gippsland on a regular basis going to a particular community.”

With two RAHC placements under her belt, Joy would recommend working in a remote Northern Territory community to other health professionals.

“If you’re thinking about working in a remote community, I would encourage you to undertake a RAHC placement. RAHC has a really great team that is supportive and helpful in every way.

“What we found was a community where the people were welcoming and friendly. A lot of really positive things are happening in these remote communities due to some really good initiatives, like RAHC.

“The Northern Territory is a beautiful place. We loved the bush and we loved the area, it was just a lovely place to be. It has been a very enriching experience for us.”


Would you like to share your RAHC experience with other Health Professionals? We are always looking for RAHC Health Professionals to tell us about their experience, by preparing a RAHC story. If you are willing to share your story, please contact your Placement Consultant or email us.

Thursday, 2 May 2013