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How To: Working as a GP Locum in Regional, Remote, and Rural Areas

Working as a GP

With an acute shortage of doctors in regional, remote, and rural areas in Australia, there are growing opportunities for GPs to work in locum and FIFO positions. Before you get started, there are some things you need to consider before committing to any work. As a general practitioner considering these positions, you probably want to know about the jobs, pay and conditions, and what is involved in applying.

The GPs who work with us in these areas come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are city GPs who just want to experience some time in bush. Others are seasoned rural GPs. Locums can go from a week to months or even years in duration.  Increasingly, Fly-In-Fly-Out (FIFO) positions are being offered to GPs as a way to address the issue of retaining medical staff in rural areas, and can be reasonable option if you are in the position to commit to a longer term role.

In most cases, they are seeking GP work in rural areas because of:

  • The interesting caseload
  • Opportunities to see new/different places
  • Higher than average pay

Of course, it’s not all rosy. Many of the positions that come up are in areas that are very poorly serviced, and a GP locum could be walking into a high-pressure situation, with minimal resources. It’s no secret that healthcare in rural and remote areas in Australia is not always comparable to that in major cities.

Work as a GP outside of capital cities varies greatly, and often people are put off by the perception that they will be isolated and alone. In many cases, this is could not be further from the truth. That said, some positions are indeed very remote, and require a higher level of skills and experience. The positions can be roughly broken down into a number of different areas, along a continuum:

  • Large regional cities with significant resources and a hospital with specialist staff (for example, Wollongong, Gladstone)
  • Smaller regional cities and larger towns with a hospital and within a minimal distance from larger hospital with specialist staff (for example, Katoomba)
  • Rural towns with a hospital with GP-lead services (for example, Cowra, Jandowae). Patients are often transferred via road or air to larger facilities.
  • Remote areas with a very small hospital or clinic, one multi-skilled GP or group of GPs providing services to a single or multiple area. Support provided by RFDS for cases requiring transfer (for example, the Pilbara region)

Included in these categories are also medical positions on Defence bases, as well as jobs in the Energy, Mining, and Infrastructure sector.

Which areas you decide to work in will largely be decided by your interests, skills, and experience. For example, positions in larger regional areas will generally not require any special qualifications or experience other than what a city GP would have. Conversely, many of the positions in rural and remote areas do require specific qualifications in one or more of the following:

  • Anaesthetics
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology
  • Emergency
  • Paediatrics
  • Surgery

Generally speaking, the positions will require the GP to be VR/FRACGP/FACRRM. However, many positions can be done by appropriately experienced non-VR general registrants.

In terms of pay for GP locums, the following can be used as a rough guide:

  • Regional Cities/Towns (Family medicine only, no hospital responsibilities) – $1200 per day / 65% (greater thereof)
  • Rural areas with hospital responsibilities (generally a small ED and ward) – $1500 per day (including on-call allowances)
  • Rural/remote areas requiring specific skills (e.g. anaes, O&G, etc) – $2000-$2500 per day (usually with rotating on-call)

Pay for medical positions on mine sites, offshore, or on energy infrastructure projects would usually fall somewhere between $1500-$2500 per day, depending on the responsibilities of the position.

Naturally, these numbers will vary according to the employer, and market conditions. Most employers will also cover the cost of travel to/from the site, as well as accommodation, and often a vehicle.

It pays to understand the market when you’re applying for a rural GP position, because there can be a huge amount of variation between different employers and positions.

Some of the other questions you should be asking are:

  • Why do you want to work as a rural GP locum?
  • What do you want to get out of it?
  • What would you like to contribute?
  • What type of work do you want to do?
  • Why is there a vacancy?
  • How many other GPs are there?
  • Is there local or remote specialist support?
  • Is the area supported by RFDS or another aeromedical provider?
  • What is the caseload like?
  • Support staff?
  • If there is on-call, or after hours, how does it work?
  • How are the billings split?
  • What exactly is the accommodation like?
  • Is there a limit on travel reimbursements?
  • Should I find a position myself, or through a medical recruitment agency?


Working as a GP in a rural, regional, or remote area can be both challenging and very rewarding. It’s not for everyone, but it does pay to try it out to see whether it is for you.

To get started, or learn more, simply complete the below form for one of our experienced recruitment consultants to contact you to answer your questions and advise you on your eligibility for these roles.

[jumplead_form id=”5506488b2bd01580428b456a”]



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