|Be willing to try anything: Dr Tom Brough and friends|
“It’s really about merit, not geography,” he said. “If you’re interviewing someone who’s experienced a whole range of things, they’re going to be a far better employee than someone who’s never left Prahran.” If you’re good enough, he tells students, you’ll get the job you want.
A willingness to step outside his comfort zone and try new things characterises Tom’s career so far. You’ve got to grow your wings, he tells medical students. You’ve got to exercise all your muscles or you’ll find the ones you’re not using have atrophied. It’s advice he takes to heart.
A crooked career pathNot long before he started his first post-internship job with a city hospital, Tom Brough received an offer from the army to accompany Operation Astute to East Timor. “I never actually went to the city,” he said. “I ended up in Dili for nine and half months instead.”
After his stint as a senior military medical officer with the stabilisation force, he found himself back at Bendigo Health where he’d completed his internship and much of his student training. Working in the emergency department he realised his “calling” was in emergency medicine. So he joined the Australian College for Emergency Medicine.
In the past, trainees could only do 12 months in Bendigo. Now the college recognises that the hospital has a good case mix, so most of his training can be done in Bendigo. The long-time Bendigo resident, only needs to spend a minimum of six months in a tertiary hospital. “Which is not a bad thing,” he said.
As well as his studies to become an emergency physician, Tom is working on a Master of Clinical Ultrasound with the University of Melbourne. “It’s a bit of a cliché – the Monash graduate is always learning – but it’s true.”
Teaching what it's really like to practiseHis interest in learning extends to mentoring students. This year he took time out from full-time work to teach Monash students in their first and final years of clinical training about managing deteriorating patients. He wanted to share his enthusiasm for clinical medicine and what’s actually being practised – which can often differ from text books – through simulation learning.
“You definitely get more hands-on experience in a regional hospital. But a hospital isn’t able to have lots of medical students around all the time,” he said. “A simulated training environment is safe and welcoming. You can make mistakes that you can’t in the real world, so you don’t miss out on learning that lesson. And it’s fun!”
Originally from rural Queensland, Tom started a law degree in Brisbane before switching to medicine at Monash. That experience of moving interstate away from his family to study developed a strong sense of independence and confidence in taking on new experiences. He recognises that stepping outside your comfort zone is hard. “But if you’re starting from scratch, the world’s your oyster because you’ve got no baggage.”
Follow your heartEver keen to take on new experiences, Tom successfully applied for job in adult retrieval services earlier this year. It meant a move back to Melbourne, but he took that in his stride.
You’ll be a doctor for a very long time, he advises students who worry about whether a decision to go rural will damage their career prospects. You should do what your heart wants.