Become A GP: RACGP launches campaign to boost GP workforce

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

7/02/2022 2:57:33 PM

The new campaign aims to inspire medical students and junior doctors to specialise in general practice.

A female GP assessing a male patient’s ear health.
The Become A GP campaign highlights the rewards of a career in general practice.

Those working in general practice are all too familiar with workforce shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the challenge.
As the community faces a growing need for generalist care, amid rising rates of chronic disease and an ageing population, not enough medical graduates are choosing to specialise in general practice.
If the trend continues, by 2030 there will be a projected shortfall of 9298 full-time GPs – or 24.7% of the GP workforce – according to a 2019 report by Deloitte. The shortage is forecast to be most extreme in urban areas, with a shortfall of 7535 full-time GPs – or 31.7%.
To help arrest the concerning drop, the RACGP has launched a new Become A GP campaign aimed at encouraging medical students and junior doctors to pursue a career in general practice.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price believes there is an increasingly urgent need for more GPs as governments have failed to invest in Australia’s general practice workforce ‘for decades’.
‘This [lack of funding] has led to many communities facing severe shortages of GPs, particularly rural and remote areas,’ she said.
‘The Government needs to act now and invest in our future GP workforce.’
Contributing to the shortage, Dr Price said, is the fact that many medical students are often unaware of the rewards of a career in general practice.
‘We need campaigns like this to encourage more medical students to become a GP,’ she said.
‘Research shows people get into medicine to “help people”, and general practice is unique among specialties in allowing a person to do just that – GPs provide holistic care to patients throughout their lives, not just when they’re sick, but to keep them well.’
This was certainly the case for Dr Isabel Hanson.
A primary care academic and GP registrar, who practices in Sydney, she said the opportunity to work ‘in partnership with people’ to improve their health and wellbeing attracted her to general practice.
‘Supporting people to heal and feel empowered in their bodies is one of the most satisfying parts of being a GP,’ Dr Hanson, who was named the 2021 RACGP NSW&ACT GP in Training of the Year, said.

Another challenge to boosting the workforce is the lack of exposure to general practice during medical school.
Dr Nathan Lam, a part-time GP in rural South Australia and Adelaide medical School lecturer, encourages students to explore general practice electives during their studies after his own experiences revealed a type of medicine that is ‘very pragmatic, creative, and independent’.
‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t spent a year in rural general practice in Kapunda as a fifth-year medical student,’ Dr Lam said.
‘My GP mentors were very enthusiastic to have me involved and be hands-on with practical on-the-job training.
‘I went from an apprehensive medical student to someone with far more confidence assessing and managing patients – and importantly, engaging with patients in my own style.’
Dr Lam said this itself is ‘one of the best parts of general practice’.
‘It allows you to tailor the way you do medicine to your personality style and whatever special interest you have,’ he said.
‘You can do medicine in your own way and at your own pace, whilst carving out time for any other passions in life that you may have. The possibilities and opportunities are endless.’
And with the pandemic having highlighted the ‘critical role’ GPs play in their communities, Dr Price said the launch of the RACGP’s campaign could not be more timely.
‘General practice is our frontline defence against COVID-19 and the backbone of the vaccine rollout, delivering half of all vaccines across the nation to date,’ she said.
‘On top of this, we’re continuing usual care for patients including managing rising chronic conditions and mental illness.
‘I’m hopeful that young people will have been inspired seeing GPs on the frontline throughout the pandemic, protecting and caring for their communities, and that this will encourage more people to choose to become a GP.’
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