Community Spotlight: Dr Paula Straatsma

When I started general practice training, I was struck by how personally patients were cared for. People were seen as individuals; not labelled by disease states.

Q: When and how did you know you wanted to become a GP?

A: I was a registrar on the emergency medicine training program working when (after much deliberation) I decided I was more suited to general practice. I really enjoyed working in emergency but I wanted to be involved in ongoing treatment and have an ongoing relationship with my patients, not just one that lasted a few hours in the ED. I also wanted a career where I would have flexibility in hours, location and the ability to move around and not be restricted by my job. I have been able to work in three different states ranging from inner city Sydney to outer metropolitan Hobart to the remote mining town of Tom Price and now working for WA Country Health Service in Karratha. Each job has taught me so much about people and medicine. However, working remotely has been the most rewarding by far.

Q: What did you most enjoy about your GP training?

A: When I started general practice training, I was struck by how personally patients were cared for. People were seen as individuals; not labelled by disease states. They were treated in the context of their family and community and thus, care was so much more holistic than I had been accustomed to in the hospital system. I loved the ongoing care and seeing whole families across generations and the whole spectrum of disease, from rashes to heart disease. For the first time, I was involved in preventative health.

Q: Looking back, what advice would you give yourself as a registrar?

A: Don’t rush out of the hospital system to become a GP. Get as much diverse experience as possible especially in emergency, paediatrics, gynaecology and psychiatry. Be adventurous and don’t be daunted by going rural especially if the city is all you know. It will stretch you in many ways however, there is immense contentment in being a doctor in a rural setting where you can use your skills on the population who need you most. Use your time as a registrar to learn your craft, embrace the learning and your resources from your training program. You won’t get this opportunity again.

Q: What would you say to someone considering their medical specialty? What sets apart general practice from other specialties?

Think about what you enjoy about medicine and which part of medicine gives you the most satisfaction. General practice is unique as you are a generalist which is immensely satisfying as you get to learn about the whole of medicine. Within this generalist framework you can develop interests in areas that you are passionate about. General practice gives you autonomy in where you want to live and what hours you want to work. It also enables you to work in rural Australia which is immensely satisfying and you have the most grateful population in the country.

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