Family motivates new BRHS intern Rose to excel

Dr Rose Petrohilos sits at a desk in front of a computer screen. She is smiling. She is hearing a dark blue dress with a floral pattern and a grey cardigan. Her stethoscope hangs over her neck.

Rose Petrohilos, one of the new intern doctors at Bairnsdale Regional Health Service, credits her family’s history and its future for inspiring her new medical career.

Her uncle and his brother-in-law both became doctors, running a Brisbane medical clinic, and her six-year-old son Suda inspires her to make the most of the opportunity.

The newly-minted Dr Petrohilos arrived in East Gippsland in January and just completed her first intern rotation as a general practitioner at the Cunninghame Arm Medical Centre in Lakes Entrance.

Now, she is immersed in the hurly-burly of the BRHS Emergency Department.

Rose completed her Degree at the University of Queensland Medical School, where her uncles trained, and has made the tough call to leave her son behind in her ex-husband’s care in Brisbane.

Her son inspired a career change after she gained a Degree in Health Science and worked in a series of jobs.

“When he was about eight months old, I realised I wanted him to have the kind of life I couldn’t have given him with my now ex-husband,” she said.

“I have a Greek family that’s quite big. My uncle Michael Petrohilos was a doctor. He started the Capalaba Medical Centre, and his brother-in-law Dr Luke Katahanas now runs the clinic. It felt like the family trade.”

‘TOUGH’ DECISION

Rose said leaving her son in Brisbane was difficult but she has no regrets. “It’s very tough. It puts a lot of fire in me to make it all worth it,” she said. “But I am enjoying every second of it.”

Rose had a bonded placement at university, requiring her to work for a period in a regional setting, but she said country medicine is close to her heart after growing up in Victoria’s Western District.

At 28, Rose said she is “a little older” than the six other interns starting this year at BRHS, and she become a leader as the intern representative on the BRHS Junior Medical Officer Forum and Medical Supervisors Committee.

“Starting out in medicine is always going to be tough, but I think it’s tougher for the guys who are a bit younger, so I’m glad to offer something back to them,” she said.

“I am very passionate about fair work and making sure that everybody is treated well by their workplace, that everyone feels happy and comfortable to come to management with issues.”

GREAT SUPPORT

BRHS supports its junior staff well, Rose said.

“The hospital really tries to do a good job supporting younger doctors and getting feedback. Overall, their approach to junior staff is really good. I know it’s not the same at metropolitan hospitals,” she said.

Graduates have advantages if they come to regional areas to complete their training, Rose said.

“People talk about a rural advantage. That’s not just in medicine, because you can do more things when you become a doctor in the country,” she said.

“You can see a wider range of pathology. You can be more involved clinically, but it’s also the people. When you’re in the country, you are a name, not a number. It’s easier for people to care about you and help you when you’re struggling.”

The East Gippsland lifestyle suits Rose. “It’s absolutely wonderful. It’s a totally different pace to inner city Brisbane, and I can’t stress enough how much nicer it is to have a country drive home. I don’t think there is a single traffic light on my commute from the hospital,” she laughed.

“My town has a pretty decent pub, nice cafes, and a nice walk that takes you around the town,” she said.

“My house has two lemon trees, which is very important if you’re Greek. It’s a beautiful three-bedroom house. My rent is the same as I’d pay for a shoebox in the city. I couldn’t have made a better choice.”

GREAT OPPORTUNITIES

Rose relishes the opportunity to work as a GP as part of her training, something she said is not available to metropolitan interns.

“It’s a very gentle introduction to being a real doctor, but I immediately have a lot of responsibility. You feel like a part of the community. Making connection with local people is pretty special,” she said.

East Gippsland will remain an important part of Rose’s future. She has already indicated she wants to stay at BRHS for the second year of her internship to get another GP placement.

Rose said she was keen to come home to Victoria and to find an intern place that offered family flexibility if care needs change for her son and her Melbourne-based father, who is unwell.

“It’s about finding people who will be kind, supportive and willing to be flexible to support you,” she said.

“I spoke to (Rural Generalist 1 Gippsland Program Manager) Sam Scott about this job. She was probably the only person in all my calls and interviews who said, ‘I don’t want you to make this decision too quickly. I want to make sure it will work for you’. It made me feel happy, confident and well cared for. In terms of education, workplace environments and safety, I feel really happy.”

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