Northern Territory medical tour ‘a reminder of your purpose’

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

16/12/2021 3:45:10 PM

A seven-day medical study tour on The Ghan is being run in Alice Springs and Uluru in June 2022.

A collage of images from Alice Springs and Uluru.
GP Dr Joanna Palmer travelled through the Northern Territory earlier this year and found the experience inspiring. (Images: Supplied)


With most state and territory borders now open, GPs are being given the opportunity to step outside of their practice setting to build on their knowledge with a study tour in the Northern Territory.
Organised by Jon Baines, the Medical Study Tour Via The Ghan will take place from 28 June–4 July 2022, with attendees spending six days visiting vast Indigenous heartlands, encountering dramatic landscapes and learning about some fascinating history, alongside a range of professional visits and talks.

Adelaide GP Dr Joanna Palmer, who went on the Ghan tour earlier this year, told newsGP she was blown away by the experience.
‘My expectations were fulfilled and exceeded,’ she said.
‘It was such a unique opportunity to be going up with a group of doctors and, as it turned out, other allied health professionals as well, meeting new people and learning – and in a beautiful setting.’
Dr Palmer, who obtained her Fellowship earlier this year, worked in Aboriginal health as a GP registrar but the COVID-19 pandemic meant most of her weekly cultural mentoring transitioned online.
So when the opportunity arose to join people, face to face and on the ground, she jumped at the chance.
‘Getting to visit the RFDS [Royal Flying Doctors’ Service] and Purple House – that was amazing,’ she said.
‘Being able to just sit in the meeting place outside together and hear their experience and how they built up that service was just fantastic, and really inspiring as someone who was just about to Fellow.
‘Hearing what GPs are doing in a multidisciplinary team was exciting.’
Other highlights included travelling on The Ghan – described by Dr Palmer as ‘a bucket list moment’ – and cooking damper under the stars at Earth Sanctuary, while learning about the work being carried out by the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress. Visiting the Simpsons Gap, Stanley Chasm and the Ochre Pits, and hearing from the Jawoyn People at Nitmiluk Gorge in Katherine were other standout moments.
While GPs interact with one another on a day-to-day basis, busy schedules are not often conducive to doctors sitting down and properly connecting with one another. For Dr Palmer the tour was a welcome opportunity to do just that in a relaxed, non-clinical environment.
‘In practice, when you’re asking about a patient or something, you’re there for that purpose and even if they’re a really personable, lovely doctor, you’re not going to have a long chat because you both need to see your next patient – it’s just not that kind of environment,’ she said.
‘So it was lovely to just sit … and have those outside of work conversations, both about work and what they’re doing, but also how they function in their family and friend life, and how they explore their other passions.’
Dr Joanna Palmer taking in the sunset at Anzac Hill in Alice Springs. (Image: Supplied)

The six-day tour will be led by GP Dr Matt Young, an experienced traveller who has visited more than 100 countries, and whose Inala clinic won the RACGP Australian General Practice of the Year for 2018.

Starting in Alice Springs, the tour will take in the dramatic MacDonnell Ranges, stargazing at the Earth Sanctuary, a cruise along Nitmiluk Gorge, and feature a visit to the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the National Critical Care and Trauma Response Centre in Darwin. Attendees will also take a sunset cruise for dinner, and see the jumping crocodiles on a cruise along the Adelaide River.
Reflecting on her own experience, Dr Palmer found benefits to doing an organised tour, given the uncertainty surrounding the pandemic, and says that it brought her peace of mind.
‘It was so well organised; there’s no way that I would have organised this sort of trip just off my own back by myself,’ she said.
‘From a logistical point of view, Jon Baines was great in terms of connecting us. And so despite all the uncertainty with COVID you did feel like it was all going to come off, which was good.’
Just one month after visiting the Northern Territory, the Delta variant started spreading in Australia and a lockdown was declared in Darwin. For Dr Palmer that served as a reminder to seize every opportunity.
And with the challenges of the past 20 months, she encouraged GPs to take the chance to connect with colleagues outside of a practice setting as a way of recharging and remembering why they chose general practice.
‘In Darwin, we got to speak to one of the public health physicians and she had training as a GP,’ she said.
‘That was a reminder of the range of things that we can do and that you really can pursue your particular passion within general practice.
‘It’s also a wonderful reminder of why we’re doing medicine. It’s really lovely to have that space to reflect on that and have a chance to talk about that with other doctors.
‘It’s kind of reminding you of your purpose and your work, but also expanding your possibilities as well.’
The Medical Study Tour Via The Ghan is a CPD-accredited activity worth 12 points. For more information, visit the Jon Baines website.

Disclosure: The RACGP will receive a small commission for every member that signs up to the tour.

This article was updated at 9.00 am (AEDT) on Friday 17 December as the tour was incorrectly identified.

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