Originally hailing from Austria, Bernadette Hader is a Northern Territory General Practice Education registrar based in Nhulunbuy. Having moved to Australia some 12 years ago and starting her medical career in women’s and paediatric health, Bernadette was drawn to a career in general practice while working in Alice Springs. Now close to the end of her training towards fellowship with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Bernadette plans to call the Territory home as she continues her work as a rural generalist beyond fellowship. Read on for Bernadette’s story.
Bernadette completed her first GP training term in a mainstream clinic in a town outside of Brisbane, to then move to Alice Springs, where she was delivering primary health services to remote communities as part of a placement there. She also had the opportunity to work with the Centre for Disease Control, where she completed an extended skill placement in paediatric outreach.
Bernadette said when she worked in Alice Springs her interest in remote medicine drew her to train as a GP in the Territory with NTGPE.
“I really fell in love with the country, the desert and the people, so I thought I would rather prefer to work remote and decided to make the change from paediatric training to general practice,” Bernadette said.
“Before that, I was just doing different jobs in different hospitals – working in Alice Springs helped me realise remote medicine was what I actually wanted to do.
“I wasn’t interested in sitting in a consulting room in private practice, seeing one patient after the other. I wanted to go out bush, to meet people living out there, and to deliver health services where it’s really needed.”
This year, Bernadette is doing a part-time placement at the Gove District Hospital, which involves working in the emergency department as well as on the wards. The other half of the time she works for Laynhapuy Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services; an organisation with a small team of GPs, nurses and Aboriginal health workers.
“Laynhapuy is a great placement to work. You see a lot of interesting patients and tropical diseases; some a lot of doctors aren’t used to seeing, and some that aren’t even mentioned in medical books,” Bernadette said.
“We see people with Strongyloides and Melioidosis, and I also see a lot of chronic diseases like diabetes and chronic heart disease, including rheumatic heart disease, especially in young people.”
Through her placement at Laynhapuy, Bernadette trains under NTGPE’s remote supervision model, where one of her supervisors is based at the service’s Yirrkala headquarters, and the other is based in Sydney. Despite sometimes being the only GP in a clinic, Bernadette said she felt very well supported.
“I have one supervisor who is in the office and who sometimes comes out to communities with me, and I have a remote supervisor who I can contact via phone or FaceTime call,” Bernadette said. “There’s also remote area nurses and the Aboriginal health workers, who are based in each community, for support.”
Bernadette said working in remote Aboriginal communities had changed her approach to how she practices medicine and had also helped her to build more skills as a doctor.
“This cross-cultural environment you’re exposed makes you really appreciate being welcomed by the communities and the interactions you have with the people who live there,” Bernadette said.
“I chose to train as a GP here because the Northern Territory is very special in terms of what it offers trainee GPs.”