The rewarding and fulfilling experiences of AMS locum work

NAIDOC Week 2024

This year’s NAIDOC Week theme ‘Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud & Proud’, is a call to honour the enduring strength and vitality of First Nations culture. At Wavelength, we are proud of our commitment to supporting Indigenous health outcomes and recognise the vital role our locum doctors play in assisting Aboriginal Medical Services (AMS) to bridge healthcare gaps in First Nations communities.

Dr Kirsten DueThis year, we’re thrilled to feature Wavelength locum GP Dr Kirsten Due, who has been working with remote Aboriginal communities across Australia, providing essential medical services and fostering genuine connections with local people. Dr Due shares some of her experiences working as a Rural Generalist, and offers insights into AMS locum work. 


More than a just a job 

Outside providing clinical services, Dr Due’s experiences shows that AMS locum work provides unique opportunities to deepen one’s appreciation and understanding of Indigenous cultures. 

"It’s an enormous privilege to spend time on remote Aboriginal communities and learn about their diverse cultures,” Dr Due shares. “I’ve been out with women collecting oysters and bush foods and the guys go out with boys and men hunting. It can be confronting and eye-opening - especially for a vegetarian! - because this can involve hunting turtles and magpie geese. But nevertheless, it's an experience that few people would ever encounter." 


General socials 54

The hardest experiences can be the most rewarding 

“Being trusted to take part and medically coordinate culturally appropriate Indigenous palliative and end-of-life care for an elderly woman was a profound experience. I will never forget the nurse support and the family support,” Dr Due recalls.

“Being part of the funeral setting still brings tears to my eyes. Being adopted by a woman on Elcho Island and getting to know her was such a touching experience that I rarely speak about it, but it remains with me as an active memory and source of inspiration."

Dr Due also explains that by sharing her experiences and expertise, she’s able to encourage more doctors to consider rural communities for locum opportunities. 

"I have been able to educate doctors in urban and city locations about the realities of Indigenous medicine. This has been life-changing for some people who have moved into similar work and found it so rewarding.” 


The unexpected impact of locum work 

Dr Due finds great fulfillment in locum work. "I thrive on teamwork in AMS settings and on the diversity of experience,” she shares.  

General socials 51“Locum work means I have been able to manage for as long as possible in complex settings and provide excellent support to people, and stay doing remote work without burning out for many years longer than colleagues, because I can take contracts that are four weeks at a time and fill an important gap... but can also rotate and move fluidly between communities, providing great quality care as I travel.”  

“Some people say that locum work means lack of continuity, but because I return to the same communities, the patients and staff know me and appreciate a friendly face coming back. My husband and I LOVE Wavelength because of the personalised service and the huge relief of help getting my work schedule and finances in order. They are honest about places, kind, understanding when things have to change, and genuinely caring.” 


Making memories on Country

For Dr Due, it’s the fond and unique memories she makes during her locum work that keeps her coming back. 

General socials 50“Who else has their underwear stolen by a camel and had to chase it down the street? Where else do you have friendly pythons in the toilets or hanging in the rafters outside your house? Where else do you meet awesome Aboriginal Health Practitioners who are the axis of healthcare? Where else are you invited to church where dogs go up the aisle for communion? In rural farming communities, patients are so understanding and every second person takes my hand and says,
'Thank you for coming to help us. We really need you’.”


Finding ways to fill a necessary gap 

"Doctors are in such short supply. Doctors’ families are rarely able to move to these areas and society and medicine have changed; it’s no longer possible to be the only doctor on 24/7 for decades as was the case when demands were less,” Dr Due muses. “Locum work means communities that would otherwise suffer from the tyranny of distance and poorer healthcare can have improved quality of life, and the most vulnerable people are given a chance at what we should all have access to – competent and prompt medical care." 

Dr Due also emphasises the unique challenges and rewards of working in remote communities.


"Relationships are delicate and complex in remote communities. The communication barrier is real and belief systems are vastly different to 'mainstream' medicine; ‘black magic’ plays a large role in the cause of sickness. Sometimes there are difficulties with wild dogs, and kids and teenagers who are challenged by the impact of socio-cultural disruption. This requires sensitivity and the ability to adapt. But it is such a joy and privilege to be part of." 


The stories shared by AMS locum doctors like Dr Kirsten Due exemplify not only the crucial role they play in bridging healthcare gaps but also the profound personal and professional fulfillment found in serving remote Indigenous communities. Their dedication not only improves health outcomes but also strengthens cultural bonds and mutual understanding. As we celebrate NAIDOC Week and reflect on 'Keep the Fire Burning! Blak, Loud & Proud', Wavelength is proud to support these healthcare heroes who embody resilience, compassion, and the commitment to making a meaningful difference in the lives of Australia's First Nations people. 

To start your AMS locum journey, click here. 

Find out more about NAIDOC week here. 

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