Introducing long time JB gal Dr Rosie Hanbury! Rosie studied postgraduate medicine at the University of Wollongong after doing a science degree at Sydney Uni. She now works as a General Practitioner (GP) at a practice in southwest Sydney. Rosie kindly gave up time in her busy schedule to chat about life as a GP during COVID19 and ways we can manage our mental and physical health throughout this time.
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What made you want to specialise in GP?
Both my parents are GP’s so I grew up seeing how much they were a part of the community and how they had this beautiful relationship with their patients and often whole families throughout their life. Then once I started studying medicine and working in hospitals I was just interested in a bunch of different areas and I was drawn to the variety of GP. Being a GP means your day is a mix of paediatrics, complex elderly patients, mental health, pregnant women, travel medicine, dermatology etc. Plus, I love travelling and having a life outside of medicine and GP definitely allows you to have more flexibility.
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How has COVID19 affected your day to day work? Has it been hard to adjust?
My practice was really on the ball and quick to switch to telehealth, which was good as I felt safer but it was also a massive shift. Initially it was a pretty anxious working environment, with the fear of contracting covid-19, dealing with patients’ anxieties, trying to keep up to date with daily changes to testing, billing and so many administration changes. The main adjustment now is getting used to doing consults mostly on the phone instead of in person. I definitely miss that human interaction.
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Do you think some of the changes you’ve had to implement to the way you work as a GP will be useful once the pandemic is over?
There are some areas of medicine that are incredibly old school – in the hospital they still use pagers and in GP we use the fax machine like it’s going out of fashion – which it did a very long time ago. So currently the technological changes that have happened have been a long time coming and I hope stay in place post the pandemic, like using emails instead of faxes and being able to send scripts electronically to pharmacists. Environmentally this is a great move too as there is so much paper wasted through faxing.
Has the pandemic affected your mental health at all as a doctor?
Definitely. The first month I felt incredibly anxious and hypervigilant, and for the first time ever I found it difficult to get to sleep (I am normally the best sleeper known to man – I have slept through a fire alarm on more than one occasion). But I think everyone was and is in the same boat, and it is normal to be anxious right now. It’s when that anxiety or low mood starts to be persistent and really affect your day to day life that it’s time to check in with yourself and your GP.
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What advice would you give to people for managing COVID19 both mentally and physically?
There’s so much information out there so I’ll try and keep this brief. It’s all about the stuff we know we should be doing anyway – eating healthily, limiting alcohol and screen time, getting enough exercise and sleep and staying connected (virtually) to friends and family. I personally have been glued to my phone and living on chocolate and wine, so I know it’s easier said than done, but especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed these basic things can make a massive difference. Be kind – to others and to yourself. Don’t expect to be your best self-right now and to be doing your job perfectly, treat yo self to a new dress (support a local aussie brand maybe like Jillian Boustred?), help get your elderly neighbours’ groceries, call your grandparents, send a care package to a friend who is struggling or just because. And if you’re the one struggling, as my mum used to say “just put one foot in front of the other”.