Job diversity draws consultant psychiatrist to life in the Great Southern

Dr Kelly Ridley in a field of yellow wildflowers For Dr Kelly Ridley, the hikes and wildflowers around Albany are some of the greatest joys of country living
03/11/2021

Dr Kelly Ridley is a consultant psychiatrist working with the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) in Albany.

Born and raised in Perth, Kelly spent much of her childhood visiting her grandparents in Merredin and grew up understanding the joy of country living.

"Growing up we would spend our holidays in Merredin and from an early age I had exposure to the country way of living. I always really loved the vibe," Kelly said.

Kelly attended medical school at the University of Western Australia, completing a year's placement at the Rural Medical School in Kalgoorlie as part of her studies. This experience cemented Kelly's preference for working in a smaller team, in country and when she had the option to enlist in rural rotations as an intern, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I did the first half of my intern year at Fremantle Hospital and for the second half I had the choice between Broome and Albany. Even though I had never been to Albany, I am really not a fan of the heat, so I thought it would be the better choice for me".

Albany calling

From the moment she arrived in Albany, Kelly felt at home.

"I can still recall my first day in Albany, I had just arrived and the junior doctors who were already there hosted a dinner party for newcomers. They were so very welcoming, I instantly felt at home. I started in the Psychiatric Unit at Albany Health Campus the next day and remember thinking it was the best job I had ever had and that I wanted to stay forever."

Kelly decided to stay on in Albany as a resident medical officer (RMO) and then as a junior registrar. She completed her senior registrar years in Perth before moving to live and work interstate.

"When I reached consultant level, I saw there was a role in Albany and I snapped it up instantly because I had found that in all my travels, this was the place I was always drawn back to, it's the place I want to be.

"It has been a year and a half since then and I am still loving it," Kelly said.

No such thing as a typical day

For Kelly, the thing she loves most about working in country is the breadth and variety of work on offer.

"There is no such thing as a typical day - I work across the acute, inpatient care unit and the assessment team so it is always very busy with new patients being admitted through community mental health each day," she said.

"In my role I could be coordinating new patient care which might involve anything from providing short-term therapy, managing detoxes or seeing patients who are acutely psychotic. I am also on-call on the General Practitioner (GP) Support Line so GPs in our region can directly call a psychiatrist and I get a few of those calls daily.

"Another part of my role encompasses coordinating the psychiatry learning for the rural clinical school, hosting lectures, teaching and also supervising junior doctors in our inpatient unit."

Another highlight for Kelly has been watching the junior doctors develop and grow.

"As they come to the end of their placement and they talk about their futures, hearing them have aspirations of working as rural psychiatrists, physicians, GPs, it's just wonderful. It brings me a lot of joy to see others fall just as much in love with remote medicine as I have."

Making a difference in the community

Working in rural practice has given Kelly the opportunity to witness first-hand the long-term effects good patient care and patience can have on someone's life.

"In a metro setting you wouldn't ordinarily have feedback on how a patient is doing once they are back in their normal lives but out here chances are at some point you will come across a friend or a family member or you'll see them at the shops, or onstage, or working and you actually get to see that improvement in real life and see the ripple effects that it has in the community."

For Kelly, the joy of working in the country is also matched by living in it.

"Albany has a population of about 35,000 people so it is big enough to have everything you could possibly need on a day-to-day basis but still makes going to Perth from time to time a bit of a treat," she said.

"There are so many spectacular places to explore - beaches, rivers, mountains, forests, wineries the list goes on. There are also lots of amazing hikes you can go on with native wildflowers and the town itself is a real happening place with a thriving art scene and lots of local and visiting musicians."

Kelly's advice to any doctor considering a move to the WA Country Health Service is simple - just come and try it!

"Come do a term and see how much you love it. There is something for everyone in WA as far as lifestyle and medical practice, so try different rotations if you're unsure and see what works for you."

To find out more about working with WA Country Health Service please contact our Medical Recruitment Team or visit our medical vacancies page for current opportunities.

Last Updated: 03/11/2021