I have been an optometrist since 1992 and after graduating from UNSW I moved to WA and have since spent most of my time in the SW region of Margaret River.
I’ve been both an employee and an owner of a business but in 2012 I decided to have a break from full-time work. I even contemplated leaving the industry to pursue other paths. It was around that time that I read an advertisement about the Rural Locum Assistance Programme (formerly NAHRLS) and thought the idea of rural and remote relief work quite appealing. I wanted some flexibility to work but had no intention of leaving my home base on a permanent basis. I was fortunate that my wife Nat was quite happy for me to try the “FIFO” lifestyle.
The application process was easy and before I knew it I was up and going.
That was almost 3 years ago and I have enjoyed every job placement since. My work has taken me to every state in Australia except for Victoria (no reason other than it just hasn’t worked out. Go the Dockers!). I have had the privilege of working with some really great people and made some good friends along the way. It’s been good to see how other practices run and use all manner of equipment.
The work and patient base has been so interesting and diverse that I decided to go back and study my diploma in Ocular Therapeutics, which I managed to complete in late 2014.
And placements are not all work. I often throw in my surfboard or hire a mountain bike and check out the surrounds on my days off. Plenty of great walks too. My wife, Nat (a teacher), has even flown over for a few jobs in the school holidays which has been great.
The incentive paid by the Rural Locum Assistance Programme (Rural LAP) has certainly been helpful but I look at it as payment for travelling to often remote locations. The real incentive has been the rewarding experiences I’ve been lucky enough to have. I can honestly say that the programme has reinvigorated my career as an optometrist.
Special thanks must be made to the Rural LAP team who have always been so helpful in organising the work, particularly with regards to travel and accommodation. I am so happy that the programme continues to be funded and would recommend it to anyone, particularly to optometrists needing a break from their workload in the country.