World Family Doctor Day – 5 minutes with Richard Clinghan, GP at Oxford Community Health Centre

You’re from Northern Ireland. Why settle in Canterbury? 

My wife and I arrived in Christchurch in August 2010, and we’d decided within 2 months of being here that we’d be here for the long term. Despite the earthquake, we still saw New Zealand as having better work/life balance and we’d made so many friends. The city looked after us so well, and we’ve never regretted staying. 

What attracted you to general practice? 

I was working as a Medical Officer in Ashburton Hospital and at the same time I started my GP training in Christchurch. I did 1 full year of GP training and then my second year of GP training I was working half time in Ashburton Hospital and the other half time in general practice. 

Over that time, I realised that I preferred the continuity of care and the more holistic approach to general practice, than I did in hospital-based medicine.  

A good example is that you’d see a lot of people coming in with chest pain to hospital. The way we’re trained in the hospital is, we’ll rule out stuff that’s going to kill people and then we’ll send them back to their GP to sort out what could be going on in the background. Whereas I was more interested in what else is going on. I find that more beneficial for the patient and for me professionally. 

The thing about moving away from hospital medicine is the whole holistic approach. I really enjoy mental health, more than I probably realise. It can be really satisfying turning people’s lives around by changing how people think. 

And apart from anything, I didn’t want to do my shifts on weekends, that’s why I ended up going to general practice. 

What’s been your experience working as a rural GP? 

Working as a rural GP, what makes it a little bit more challenging is we haven’t got the same access to resources. It’s a bit harder to get blood tests and investigations, we don’t have the same sort of services that come out here that maybe people do in town. In an emergency situations we sometimes have to do things that otherwise might have been handled by urgent care facilities like 24 Hour Surgery or ED. We do have people that have had chest pain and need to be thrombolysed, or we’re called out to emergency situations like rural traffic accidents. 

Any last words? 

It’s that continuity of care that I really enjoy. I like actually seeing well people. When you work in the hospital, you’re only seeing sick people. I like seeing people who are coming in for their routine medications and checkups, and they’re happy and healthy. I like getting to know them better and getting to know their families and learning about people lives. You meet some extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, even out here in Oxford. These are the reasons I really enjoy general practice. 

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In 2020, Richard published a children’s book called Jenny & the Eddies. This colourful fairytale was written to counter misinformation about the measles vaccine. Follow Jenny, a plucky elf who ventures into the forest home of monsters that attack her village on a quest to find a legendary beast she hopes will be able to protect them. Jenny and the Eddies aims to promote vaccine safety in a fun and non-threatening manner whilst challenging some common myths that harm immunisation rates.