We caught up with Dr Sophie Parnham one Wednesday morning, she’d just escaped a rain downpour - lucky for us, she was happy to tell us how she got into emergency and rural medicine. 

Sophie grew up in Wellington and after finishing college, went straight into her Bachelor of Medicine degree followed by two years as a junior doctor at Whakatāne Hospital, giving her a true appreciation of what life in a rural centre would be like. 

 

Fast forward a few years and Sophie is close to completing her dual training in both Emergency Medicine (Australasian College) and Rural Hospital Medicine (College’s Division of Rural Hospital Medicine). 

Sophie is currently working part-time at Tauranga Hospital as an emergency department doctor -which she enjoys - but once she’s completed her dual fellowship, she’s keen to get back to a small rural hospital.
“You’re typically practising in an area of scare resources whether that be staff, transport or equipment - so you’re quite often working at the edge of your comfort zone having to think outside the box to come up with a solution for the best possible outcome.”  

“I like working in a smaller hospital because you get to know the community and treat patients over a few days, rather than a few hours like you do in a bigger hospital emergency department.”

Sophie says she really enjoys the flexibility of the Rural Hospital Medicine Training Programme, which allows her to spend time with her children.

“I’ve got two preschoolers aged four and nearly two so I spend a lot of time with them – I‘ve been on the programme since 2010 and am really looking forward to finishing up and I’m hopeful I can start a career in a rural hospital.

“Working in a smaller hospital gives you better continuity of care, a wider, more flexible skillset, and you to get to see first-hand the difference your work makes to the outcomes of that particular community.”

But that is not without its challenges.

“You’re typically practising in an area of scare resources whether that be staff, transport or equipment - so you’re quite often working at the edge of your comfort zone having to think outside the box to come up with a solution for the best possible outcome.”  

Sophie says she’s very early in her career but is hopeful that once she becomes more established, she will be able to reduce inequalities in health care especially of rural populations, Māori and other minority groups.

“I like working in a smaller hospital because you get to know the community and treat patients over a few days, rather than a few hours like you do in a bigger hospital emergency department.”

When asked about her professional interests, Sophie laughed and replied “when I’m working in emergency medicine, I’m interested in rural hospital medicine and when I’m working in rural medicine, I’m interested in emergency medicine.” 

Outside of work, Sophie spends a lot of time with her children and does her bit towards creating a sustainable future for New Zealand.

 

“I am by no means an eco-fanatic, but I do want I can – I grow my own vegetables, buy second-hand and plastic-free, and transport my children in a Dutch cargo bike rather than taking the car.”