For 40 years I have worked as a rural GP in Woolgoolga on NSW's mid north coast.
Practicing rural medicine has been my life's calling and I love the sense of community that comes with the job.
Rural communities are tightknit and there's an unspoken agreement that everyone pulls together during difficult times.
Rural health professionals are fundamental in ensuring regional communities thrive.
We're often the first on the scene when natural disasters and emergencies hit and we are there all the way through to recovery.
Usually, we'll get a bit of respite in between, ready to face the next challenge. However, this hasn't been the case over the past four to five years.
Our rural health professionals have worked tirelessly through drought, bushfires, floods, mice infestations and of course more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
It's required all hands on deck, with staff working long hours and taking on extra responsibilities including our medical receptionists, nurses, allied health workers and administrators.
My practice administered 1000 COVID-19 vaccines just in the past month. The phone hasn't stopped ringing.
We do the job because we love it - we know nearly everyone who comes through our doors, we bump into our patients down the street, on weekends, at school, social, cultural and sporting events.
We care about our communities deeply and we know they value the work we do.
But we are human. Sometimes we also need a pat on the back.
Often our own families or friends are caught up in emergencies unfolding, yet we continue to rock up day after day to deliver essential health services.
That's why it's important for everyone to get behind #RuralPositive, an initiative of NSW Rural Doctors Network, to thank and praise the work our rural professionals do.
By recognising and acknowledging our rural health workforce it will help to boost morale and foster wellbeing to get through these challenging times. Remote, rural and regional communities are still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic - some for the first time since the pandemic hit.
So next time you visit your local practice, clinic, hospital or health service, be patient, be kind, and most of all show your appreciation by saying thank you. "A little bit of gratitude goes a long way."
To thank a rural health professional, visit www.ruralpositive.com.au
- Associate Professor John Kramer OAM runs the Beach Street Family Practice in Woolgoolga.