10 April 2019

New home, cultures and languages: Nur’s GP journey in the NT


Originally hailing from Kedah in Malaysia, Dr Nur Hayati Mohd Alias has felt at home in the Northern Territory since she arrived here in 2014. Her passion for making a real difference where it’s needed most hasn’t been lost in translation, despite English being her second language, and the third, fourth or even fifth for most of her patients. We recently caught up with this mum of three, who is currently training with NTGPE towards a Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, to chat about her GP journey in a new country, surrounded by new cultures and languages.

Remarkable resilience and adaptability are obviously inherent in Nur, who has taken the culture shock of relocating her life, family and career to Katherine – a regional centre located a few hours’ drive south of Darwin – in her stride.

“When I arrived in the Northern Territory, I was struck by how much it felt like home,” Nur said. “Probably the most familiar aspect was the climate, which is similar to where I’m from in Malaysia.”

Balancing full-time work, GP training and family life seems to come naturally to this quiet yet determined young doctor. With the support of her husband, Azlan – also a doctor who works at Katherine Hospital – Nur is completing her training while balancing her responsibilities as a mother to her children, aged seven, four and two.

“I have a very supportive husband, which makes a huge difference. Plus, my two eldest children attend the local primary school, and my youngest child goes to a wonderful local daycare centre,” Nur said.

Nur and her family relocated to Darwin in 2014, where she started her training at Royal Darwin Hospital. She said she wanted to become a GP for the diversity of patients and the flexibility in her working hours.

“I chose to train as a GP in the NT because the medicine is so diverse,” Nur said. “I feel like I’ve learned a lot more here than I would have in other more metropolitan areas of Australia.”

“Through my day-to-day work in treating chronic disease in Aboriginal patients, I also feel like I’m contributing to real change in locations where there is less access to healthcare – places where good primary care is really needed.”

Dr Nur Hayati Mohd Alias

Nur said she felt that GPs could have great impact on a person’s health outcomes through early detection and screening of health issues, as well as through the relationships they can form with their patients.

“It’s a privilege to be able to build a foundation of trust with a patient and be able to get a deeper understanding of their health concerns,” Nur said. “Continuity of care in Aboriginal communities means you are caring for the whole family, not just your patient.”

“I like that, as a GP, I get to see my patients through all stages of illness and recovery and form good relationships with their wider family networks, who can support them at home as they recover from or manage their health conditions,” Nur said.

Nur said that her patients at Aboriginal community-controlled health organisation, Wurli Wurlinjang, are often disadvantaged financially, and often have low levels of health literacy.

“A major barrier to effective health care for our patients can be that they don’t have access to transportation, which simply means it’s difficult for them to get to a clinic to see a GP.

“A really great service that Wurli Wurlinjang offers patients to overcome this is to pick them up and drop them off at home,” Nur said.

Nur said she had found the supportive team environment at Wurli immensely useful in overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers, and in finding a common ground with her patients.

“At Wurli, GPs work as members of a team alongside nurses and Aboriginal health practitioners,” Nur said. “These team members have been invaluable in helping me to learn to communicate with patients in situations where cultural and linguistic differences have been significant.”

There’s never a dull day at Wurli for Nur; because it’s a walk-in clinic, she never knows what patient she’ll see next and what medical challenge awaits in her next appointment. She also hits the road in the clinic’s fully equipped medical vans several times a month to visit patients based at the nearby Werebun, Walpri and Gorge Camps.

“The cases I see on a day-to-day basis can range from sore throats, paediatrics and skin diseases, to uncontrolled diabetes and non-compliance with medication,” Nur said.

“There’s a great deal of variety, which means I’m constantly upskilling and learning about a wide range of health issues.”

If you’re interested in training with us, check out our regional profiles to learn about the incredible places general practice in the NT can take you