Academic posts: Opening doors for general practice registrars

Morgan Liotta

24/08/2018 10:59:52 AM

General practice registrar Dr Rebekah Hoffman talks to newsGP about her experiences undertaking an Australian General Practice Training academic post.

Dr Rebekah Hoffman says that having the flexibility to maintain a work–life balance is important for wellbeing.
Dr Rebekah Hoffman says that having the flexibility to maintain a work–life balance is important for wellbeing.

It would be fair to say that Dr Rebekah Hoffman meets her quota of maintaining variety in her day-to-day life.
Her weeks include working in clinical practice three to four days a week in Mittagong, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, as well as three different teaching roles at the University of Wollongong (UoW). She also recently completed her Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) academic post through the UoW.
And all of this was undertaken while raising two small children.
Dr Hoffman is grateful that her academic term at the UoW allowed flexibility between work, study and family life.
‘I was looking for something I could do part-time that wasn’t clinical, and that I could keep doing while I had two little kids to look after at home,’ she told newsGP.
After completing her academic post in February this year, Dr Hoffman wrote an article that has been published in the latest edition of Australian Journal of General Practice (AJGP), focusing on burnout and wellbeing of junior doctors.
This was also the subject of her academic studies.
‘I did a qualitative study comparing hospital junior doctors – interns, registrars, unaccredited registrar – to general practice registrars, with my hypothesis at the time being that hospital doctors are going to be really stressed and under-supported and that general practice would be way better,’ Dr Hoffman said.
‘But that’s not what I found. I found they were equally as stressed and equally as under-supported.’
The results of Dr Hoffman’s study found that stress was common among the interviewees, regardless of their work setting, and the causes of that stress were multi-faceted.
‘Both [junior doctors in hospital and general practice settings] were burnt out and suffering the same things. Not self-caring, not being supported, and having internal and external barriers to being able to look after themselves,’ she said.
The objective of Dr Hoffman’s research was to understand these barriers and the reasons behind junior doctors experiencing burnout.
She found that while these junior doctors were aware of prevention strategies, they were not always able to effectively put them into action. A particular strategy to prevent burnout Dr Hoffman supports is one that helped her along her path as a general practice registrar – flexibility.
‘It works from both ends,’ she said. ‘For the registrars, to have the confidence to be able to express that they are having some trouble.
‘And if stuff happens in their lives they can delay and say, “Look, I’m having trouble, I need to take six months off.”’
On the other end, Dr Hoffman believes general practice supervisors having an awareness of any issues lends itself to better levels of flexibility.
‘The policy-makers could set policies that are family-friendly and flexible, so that the registrars don’t have a limited time frame to finish things,’ she said.
Dr Hoffman also identifies the significance of registrars being acknowledged for their hard work and dedication, while also remembering to look after themselves.
‘It is important for the registrars to be promoted to engage in self-care – so to be encouraged to have their own GP, to have a life outside of general practice and medicine,’ she said.
‘So it’s the acknowledgement that it still is really hard for them, [but] it shouldn’t be two years of stress and burnout and two of the worst years of your life. It should be an opportunity to learn and encourage and to be nurtured into being better doctors.
‘It’s about having that work–life balance.’
Dr Hoffman’s academic post may be complete, but her academic work continues, as she recently started a PhD focusing on the work–life balance of women in medicine.
She is thankful for the opportunity to complete an academic post, and recommends it for registrars seeking some variety and wanting to open other doors in their clinical training.
‘I loved my academic term and I really encourage any registrars who are wanting to do it to look into it, because it’s nice not just to do clinical medicine 40 hours a week or more. It’s nice to have a variety of things that you can do,’ she said.
Academic posts
An academic post is an AGPT program term in which general practice registrars learn academic skills through individualised learning plans, with mentoring and support from training providers, universities and the RACGP.
The post aims to provide exposure to research and the academic environment, encouraging registrars to incorporate academic work into their careers.
Further information is available on the RACGP website.

academic post general practice registrars junior doctors

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Liz Romeo   29/08/2018 6:59:02 AM

In our practice in rural NSW we have had 5 GP Registrars who were not committed to relocating fully for their term. They try to maintain family lives in Sydney/Melbourne, or even just the next major town, and travel there on weekends. Any family with two working parents struggles at times. Add one studying, and that us enough. But take away 8-10 hours of travel time every week, add the stress of being a trainee in a demanding job, plus the training demands of their training provider and the burden of an upcoming exam, this is modern people saying we can have it all. We can have it all, but when you want it all at once, you pay the cost.
On the other hand, rural GP Supervisors are getting burnt out, and they are dying out. They made a commitment to their rural area in their youth, or in their prime and the current generation are not stepping out of the cities, and stepping up. What was a great life and career becomes an eternal grind - burnout at its worst.
For just 2 years of a registrar’s life, I challenge them to get their family out of the rut of city life and move where they can enjoy rural living as a family. Let the partner take a break from their work. Live simply for a change. You never know, you might even like it and never leave.