For Natalie Fonda, one of the hardest parts of being a paramedic was having to hand over her patients.
“I loved emergency medicine, but I didn’t enjoy having no continuity of care” Dr Fonda said.
“I had the privilege of building a relationship with my patients, being in their homes, seeing their family photos and learning everything about them, and then I would have to hand them over and never see them again.”
After six years as an advanced life support paramedic with Ambulance Victoria Dr Fonda decided if she wanted to hold on to her patients, she would have to follow in her family’s footsteps, study medicine and become a GP.
“My dad, brother and sister are all doctors, and most of them are GPs. I decided to become the fourth Dr Fonda. It was a bit of a no brainer that I would specialise in General Practice.”
After completing her medical degree Dr Fonda moved to Sunshine Coast where she trained as a GP through the James Cook University GP training program.
“It gives you the best of both worlds. You still get the emergency presentations to the GP clinic. Plenty of people walk in unwell and you have to look after them. That appeals to the paramedic in me. I also get that continuity of care.”
JCU GP Training also opened the former Melbournians eyes to the health issues facing regional, rural and remote Queensland.
“We travelled to registrar workshops all around the north and west of the state as well. It was not just about training on the Sunshine Coast. It’s about understanding the needs of regional, rural and remote Queensland.”
Dr Fonda said the program also enabled her to pursue professional development and study for a graduate certificate in sexual health.
“For me being supported to get a sub-specialty in an area of interest is just fantastic.”
Having Fellowed as a GP, Dr Fonda is now supervising registrars and finding fulfilment in the community aspect of general practice.
She is a session tutor at the University of Sunshine Coast and is still involved with JCU conducting ECT visits for general practice registrars - all via Zoom due to COVID-19.
“I get to see my patients again and follow up. I get to look after their kids, their mums, their neighbours. It’s all about community, which I love.”
While Dr Fonda has since had another seachange and moved on from the Sunshine Coast, she looks back on her time working in regional general practice with fondness. It offered her and her family a community and lifestyle she admits she'd never dreamt of while living and working in inner-city Melbourne.
“We’re avid outdoors people. We rode our bikes to work and rode on the weekends as well. We lived 200 metres from the beach and got there every day. We also love hiking and used the weekends to explore the amazing national parks which are plentiful around there.
“Every single morning I would puff and pant to got to the top of the hill on my bicycle but I got there and I get these glimpses of the ocean looking down over Alexandra Headlands beach and it just blew me away, and after three years of living there riding the same route I was still blown away, every single day. I was lucky.”
Thanks to JCU
for providing this story.
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