Forging a path in rural medicine in the Kimberley

Dr Forster giving thumb up with RFDS helicopter

Dr David Forster is a District Medical Officer – Procedural in Emergency and Anaesthetic Medicine and the Director of Clinical Training for the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) in the Kimberley.

He has been working at Broome Regional Hospital for 13 years and is a real advocate for what WACHS and the Kimberley region has to offer.

“I came to Broome in 2009 for a six-week stint and never left. I actually had a job in another state which I was meant to go to but stayed here primarily because it was so interesting, and the people were fantastic.

“If you were to interview the whole of Broome Hospital you would probably find that half the people working here are ones that I started with back then. It’s just one of those places where people tend to stay.”

Back in his training days, there was no Rural Generalist Pathway or ACRRM, so David forged his own path.

“I did general practice training first off and then I did some work in the intensive care unit and in anaesthetics.

“In the years since, I have continued to up-skill by undertaking different emergency medicine courses and staying curious about the next generation of medicine and technology.”

David’s work is extremely varied with three days a week spent on clinical work, one day facilitating training and he also does helicopter retrievals part-time for the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS).

“You are working in a job which is continuously pushing you, no matter how much training you do, there’s always another thing that you need to learn and what you are learning really means something.

“A sick patient who may not have survived five years ago now can, because a new method has been introduced. It is literally the difference between life and death.”

David says he loves his job but what he loves most about working in country health is the team of people he is surrounded by.

“The team you get to work with here is just amazing. You all become really close friends and there’s such a great support system, everyone looks after one another.

“If you have a tricky patient case or are having a hard time, they are always there to give some advice or support you in whatever way they can and that makes a huge difference.”

In his work as Director of Clinical Training, David has seen a whole new generation of the medical workforce grow with many deciding to return to the Kimberley after completing their training.

“It’s actually been really great to see doctors who started out in Broome in the program as interns and resident medical officers (RMOs) coming back as consultant cardiologists, paediatricians, DMO’s in anaesthetics and consultants in emergency medicine.

“I think the big difference with the training in Broome is there is no mid-level doctors so the interns and RMO’s get to work directly with all the senior doctors and they get to learn a lot more and have one-on-one teaching. They are also often stepped up in their duties and tend to have more responsibility.

“From a personal point of view, when you all work together and you teach them something and then you get to see it unfold in real life and have a positive outcome, I find that to be incredibly rewarding.”

It's not just Broome Hospital that David admires but the lifestyle that the Kimberley has to offer.

“The lifestyle in the Kimberley is just great. I have three children and we get to spend a lot of time together, more than we ever spent when I worked in other jobs.

“It takes me no time to travel to and from work and you cannot beat it in terms of hobbies. We go motorbike riding, horse riding, boating and camping, it’s never boring!”

David is encouraging doctors wherever they may be in their career to seriously consider working for WACHS.

“If you are interested in working in country health, I would say just give it a go!

“For those who are sitting on the fence with worries, I would encourage you to speak to someone in our team, we are always happy to have a chat and talk things through with you.

“I really do recommend a move to WACHS and think it is a decision you won’t regret.

“It gives you a broad perspective of medicine all the way from general practice to critical care and sets you up for future success!”

To find out more about working with WACHS contact our medical recruitment team or visit our living and working in country WA page. For current opportunities visit our medical vacancies page.

Alternatively join the WACHS LiveHire Medical Talent Community to be the first to hear about upcoming locum and longer term opportunities.

Last Updated: 25/03/2022