Training and working as a GP in the Northern Territory has been far from boring for Dr Maddy Shepherd: she’s been juggling work, study, motherhood and her lifestyle since making the move from NSW in 2012. An inspiration to her fellow trainee GPs, Maddy has completed her Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and has recently started training towards a Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice in Indigenous health. We caught up with Maddy to find out more about her experience balancing her GP training with her role as a mum to her son, Oscar (and everything in between).
Originally hailing from NSW, Maddy has been lucky to have trained and worked at some great places in the NT. Doing her internship at Royal Darwin Hospital, RMO years at Alice Springs Hospital, and completing her GP training in Alice Springs and East Arnhem Land, Maddy has covered a lot of country since moving to the Territory. Like many others, Maddy and her husband, Dave, didn’t intend to stay as long as they have, but the great work opportunities, laid-back lifestyle and sense of adventure have really got under their skin, and so they find themselves still here seven years later.
Although the change in climate was a bit of a shock at first, Maddy and Dave quickly settled into their new lives in the NT.
“It’s been lovely to meet so many like-minded colleagues. Add to that the proximity to some great camping and outdoor activities on weekends and you have a great lifestyle that is hard to replicate in other parts of Australia,” Maddy said.
“I have been fortunate to have had great placements here in the NT,” Maddy said. “What made these placements so enjoyable was working in wonderful teams of passionate, highly skilled professionals, and having incredible supervisors.
“I have only just started my FARGP placement at Amoonguna but I am already excited by the prospect of working with some wonderful, experienced and compassionate people during this placement too.”
Drawn to a career in general practice for its challenging, diverse and complex medicine, Maddy has also been able to cultivate her interests in women’s health and antenatal care in her day-to-day work.
“I enjoy being able to follow up patients and gain an insight into their stories. I think as GPs we are uniquely placed to appreciate our patients within their own individual set of circumstances, which is a privilege but also a huge responsibility,” Maddy said.
But Maddy’s GP journey hasn’t been without challenge; she said juggling a busy work life with study, family and friends is tricky, but all these things give her a sense of meaning and belonging.
“I am no expert at juggling all of this, but I think knowing yourself well and identifying what it is you need to keep grounded is important – whether it’s regular exercise, talking with friends or having an afternoon nap when you can get it!” Maddy said.
“I’ve been really lucky to have a supportive husband who was able to take six months off work to care for Oscar. I also have a wonderful workplace that has made it easy for me to have flexible work arrangements.”
Working with populations that are geographically isolated, often socioeconomically disadvantaged and living with the burden of disease has seen Maddy develop an enormous respect for the GPs she has met and worked with in the NT.
“GPs working in these settings often have an incredible knowledge base, a high level of practical skills and the capacity to deliver flexible and compassionate healthcare within unique environments,” Maddy said.
“Training in the NT has definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities within general practice; you can continue to be largely hospital-based, work within a private clinic or deliver care within the most remote communities in Australia.”
Although Maddy has an abundance of career opportunities at her fingertips, she’s yet to decide on her long-term career niche. However, she says that working in Indigenous health in Central Australia is a certainty for her in her future GP career.
Interested in training as a GP in the NT? Find out more.