Rural Australia takes its toll
Unfortunately, even with the additional expertise in the town, many residents postpone a doctor’s visit until a health issue has escalated. With the challenges facing rural Australia, health issues often take a backseat to other concerns.
“There is this great myth of rural Australia; all these tough men and tough women out here,” he said. “And that’s true to an extent. But due to injuries, the ageing workforce, troubles with the price of cattle and wool and the drought, we actually have these very strong people who have – through years of adversity – been made into very frail people, who are more unwell than people in cities.”
These issues, coupled with the tyranny of distance from the nearest major hospital in Brisbane, means Dr Nicol has become a truly multitalented doctor during his time in Winton.
“As one of only two doctors in town, you become very important to both patients and their families. It’s a very privileged position."
JCU Medicine graduate Dr Bryce Nicol
“There’s the challenge of arranging fly outs, as well as arranging and supervising specialist care,” Dr Nicol says. “My day may start with 30 patients booked in a clinic, but then a person comes in with cardiac arrest and none of my patients will get seen that day, because I’ll be in the hospital all day taking care of this patient, waiting for the Royal Flying Doctor Service to arrive.”
Although he has a background in emergency medicine, Dr Nicol has come to love building a rapport with patients he’ll frequently see about town.
“My patients are the people who make my coffee and the people who serve me beer,” he says. “They’re the people I celebrate with at the races and the people I commiserate with – often also at the races! It’s a wonderful environment.”
Even as one of two doctors in the town, Dr Nicol has plenty of time for his own hobbies and has a tight-knit social group within the hospital.
“I have an enjoyable social life in town with the medical students and the nurses. We’re a very tight-knit group. There are so many social opportunities and so much town spirit.”
He is very content with his decision to combine emergency medicine with GP training in a remote area.
“You get more challenging clinical situations, with more appreciative patients, with more supportive colleagues, in a remote area of Australia that very few people are fortunate enough to visit,” he says.