Meet the Fellows: Dr Jason King

FRACGP, class of ‘14

Dr Jason King started his journey to becoming a GP when he discovered a disconnect between his hospital-based career, shiftwork and family life.

He was originally on the emergency traineeship program at the Royal Perth Hospital (RPH), however realised he had a decision to make about his career when his family started to grow.

“At the time I was doing shifts in ICU, high dependency unit, and the trauma unit at RPH, and I remember sitting there talking to my wife on the phone one day,” Jason said.

“I was on a six-day swing which was a 14-hour shift on the trauma unit for six days straight.

“I hadn’t seen my child for six six days, and I had missed a lot of her early months and milestones; she was about to turn one, we had our wedding coming up, and I hadn’t been able to help plan for the wedding.

“My wife said to me, ‘Maddy started walking today,’ and I felt really ill about this clash between the most important part of my life, which is my family, and my passion for my career.”

It was Jason’s mentor Dr David Atkinson who turned Jason’s mind toward general practice.

“It was a way for me to balance work and life while maintaining my generalist outlook toward medicine, which is what I liked about emergency medicine,” Jason said.

“That’s what I was really passionate about: being able to be useful in different situations for someone’s life when it comes to their health.”

After spending some time at Princess Margaret Hospital, Jason began his GP training with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

After some initial training at Quinn’s Rock, Jason again spoke to Dr Atkinson, who encouraged him to move to Kimberley to experience a different side of general practice.

“I had such an amazing time in the Kimberley,” Jason said.

“The very first week I was there, I walked into the clinic and was told to head to an outreach clinic in a community just out of town.

“The next day, I was on a plane going out to Bidyadanga, a town of about 2000 people. It was an amazing, vibrant and varied experience.”

Jason particularly enjoyed the camaraderie he experienced while in the Kimberley.

“We had a number of GP registrars all at the same time in Broome working in a variety of areas,” Jason said.

“We all understood and had this fantastic support for each other, and in such a beautiful part of the country.

“I’ve been so blessed to be able to work in these places, and GP was what allowed me to do that.”

Above all, Jason loves the connection he has with his patients.

“While I was doing my training in ED, there was this incredible turnover, but I found there were occasions where people would come back,” he said.

“One case in particular was an old lady from a nursing home who had come back a few times for heart failure issues who just kept bouncing back with acute pulmonary oedema, and getting to chat with her and her family over the course of a six-month period, about two or three times, really made my day.

“I really began to treasure those moments where I could find out what else was going on in a person’s life; I loved having that connection.”

Jason said the two-way communication between him and his patients as a GP was much more balanced than most other forms of medicine.

“While I can easily just say, ‘here, take this tablet, you need to do this lifestyle change’, without knowing the patient I can’t possible know how to communicate that in a way that ensures they’re going to go away and consider it and carry out that life change,” he said.

A large portion of Jason’s day consists of “yarning” with patients and families. In fact, he said possibly 15-20 per cent of his day was what could be considered traditional medicine.

“For me, that’s what being a GP is all about,” Jason said.

“It’s about opening up your mind and your heart to what’s happening in that patient’s life.

“Being able to utilise your empathy in a way that is balanced as well, so you’re not burning yourself out, and really understanding what’s going on in a patients life allows you to be the best doctor for that person, their family and the community.”

Jason is currently based in a remote Aboriginal community in far North Queensland and enjoys the work-life balance he now has.

“I work five days a week with one day off every fortnight, I get paid leave, and I’ve really been able to find a niche inside of GP,” he said.

“Working in Yarrabah, we’re working with a broad holistic model of care which includes biopsychosocial, so community health, cultural and spiritual health, the health of country, and even financial and legal health.”

He said a particularly treasured moment was when he was working on the vaccination rollout which required a door-to-door approach where he spoke to the community about vaccinations and their hesitancy and was able to answer their questions directly.

“On this particular day I had a morning clinical session, and then I was out walking door-to-door in the afternoon,” Jason said.

“I was yarning with people on the verandahs, having cups of tea, speaking to a grandmother and her children about the vaccine.

“That was the most magic experience in a really beautiful part of the world.

“It’s the variety of practice that I really treasure; I don’t have to be stuck in a room all day, I can be out there doing different things.”

Jason’s advice to medical students and junior staff in the hospital system was to understand that their career would be a long one no matter what they chose.

“You’re going to have to make decisions that will mean you’ll have to weigh up your priorities between your life outside and within medicine,” he said.

“GP provides the most equitable balance between all of those different priorities in life, and it’s a diverse and varied field in which you can find your niche while still maintaining that balance.”

“GPs are in demand all across Australia, particularly in remote communities, so look to remote areas to both learn more as a GP and to see them as your ultimate destination for your career.

“Working remotely and in rural areas is incredibly rewarding where you get to be part of a community, which is something that is increasingly missing in our society.”