NAIDOC week and Aboriginal Medical Services

9 min | Medical Careers
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Cam Mutton

November 13, 2020

Honored to work with Aboriginal Medical Services across the country

NAIDOC AMS Doctor with patient - Wavelength

“Always Was, Always Will Be. acknowledges that hundreds of Nations and our cultures covered this continent. All were managing the land - the biggest estate on earth - to sustainably provide for their future.”

This week is NAIDOC week (National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee) 8-15 November 2020. The theme this year - Always Was, Always Will Be. - celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, and how they have sustainably managed “the biggest estate on earth” for over 65,000 years.

“NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia and is celebrated not only in Indigenous communities, but by Australians from all walks of life. It is a great opportunity to participate in a range of activities and to support your local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.”

Here at Wavelength, our mission is to partner with medical professionals and healthcare organisations for the betterment of communities across the country. We assist over 300 remote Australian communities each year by providing doctors to rural and remote medical services where patients might otherwise go without critical medical care. We are proud and honored to work with Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) across the country, as well as other local health services across Australia, that help to support Aboriginal Community controlled healthcare.

One of our General Practice Locum recruiters, Anna Mullins, has spent many years working with the Aboriginal Medical Services, finding locum GPs to provide healthcare to communities in some of the most remote corners of Australia. Anna told us about some of her experiences and what she has found most rewarding about being involved with the AMS.

What do you find the most rewarding about working with General Practitioners working in AMS?

By placing a GP in a regional, rural or remote Aboriginal Medical service it is rewarding to know that some of Australia’s most vulnerable people will receive care, the kind that most non-Indigenous Australians take for granted as being available at our fingertips.

What impact do AMS locums have on the community?

I feel the more remote the health service that you assist, the greater the impact it can have on the community. Especially, as it is unlikely the service has a full-time doctor and is therefore heavily reliant on FIFO locums. Providing locum doctors to these communities ensures patients have access to a doctor more regularly and can address any health concerns or illness without the need to travel extreme distances. North-West Western Australia is certainly a location in Australia whereby I know a positive impact can be felt due to the sheer remoteness of the medical clinics.

What is something you have done for a doctor that they really appreciated?

As a locum medical recruiter, I feel it is my job, not only to fill vacancies, but to provide a one stop shop to the doctors that accept the jobs. From ensuring they have received all the information about the role and its expectations in terms of impact on the local community, to booking or assisting with travel (flights, hire car), assisting with applications for the doctor to confirm Medicare Provider Numbers, and right up to sending off their weekly invoices to ensure they get paid on time.

Not all locum doctors require or request this type of service, but for the ones that take up my offer, I know they are grateful that we can make their life that little bit easier.

Tell us about a memorable placement where you had to do something out of the ordinary to help the Doctor secure the job, complete paperwork, or assist with a move?

An AMS in Far North QLD was being visited by the Prime Minister at the time, and the clinic at that point did not have a full-time doctor, as they had not been open long. With some persuasion, I managed to convince a lovely GP from South Australia to scrap the holiday plans he had booked in with this family and to fly up to Far North Queensland to take a working holiday there instead.

It all happened a few days before the official visit by the PM, so I had to work quickly to ensure that he and his family of 5 were able to access the 3 flights required to get them there. It was a big logistical process, but when it all worked out, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and the AMS clinic was absolutely thrilled.

The PM’s visit made the news and seeing the GP on prime-time news that night was really exciting, especially as the exposure that the service and community received was incredible.

In your opinion, what qualities does it take for a doctor to be successful as a locum GP?

Being able to hit the ground running is imperative to being successful in a locum environment, and that includes being familiar and confident with the medical software used in the clinic. The GP has been appointed to fill a void, so being able to learn quickly and fit in seamlessly is paramount.

I think the ultimate test of whether the locum has been successful, is if the clinic indicates they would re-employ them, and a lot of our locum doctors return regularly to these communities, having enjoyed and connected with staff and patients there.

Do you have any advice for doctors considering AMS work?

Please give it a go! AMS clinics are located all over the country and the type of experience will vary greatly upon where you go; practising in a regional city as opposed to a community in remote Northern Territory with a population of 350 and no hospital nearby will bring a host of different challenges and experiences.

The patients you treat will likely have multiple comorbidities, and I am often told that the medicine is complex and unlike anything you see in a city clinic.

On top of all of this, you can be confident, whether you locum in a very remote AMS clinic or one closer to the bigger cities, that you have had a positive impact, providing essential care to Australia’s First Nation Peoples and their local communities.

If you are interested in providing health services to vulnerable Australians, in learning about Indigenous cultures and traditions, and visiting some truly spectacular sights then please get in touch with Wave to chat about what type of AMS would best suit you.

How Can I Get Involved with NAIDOC week?

NAIDOC Week is all about participation, so head over to the events page to find local celebrations near you. You can also learn more about the History of NAIDOC Week.

If you are a General Practitioner, and would like to learn more about working in Aboriginal Medical Services, please register your details with us and we’ll be in touch!

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