GPs to help drive next generation applicants

Morgan Liotta

29/03/2023 4:22:01 PM

Ahead of AGPT applications closing, the RACGP is calling on its ambassadors to encourage junior doctors to choose the same rewarding career.

GP with patients
The RACGP is committed to delivering a world-class general practice training program for Australia’s future GPs.

With applications for the 2024 Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program now open, the RACGP is calling on members to spread the word that general practice is not only a rewarding career choice, but one that is critical to the community.
From 1 February, general practice training officially transitioned back to Australia’s specialist medical colleges – the RACGP and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) – creating a new pathway towards specialising as a GP to work unsupervised in Australia.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins marked this a ‘historic day’ for the profession and announced the college’s commitment to delivering a world-class training program to help ensure a strong future for general practice.
With the transition now complete, Chair of the RACGP’s National Faculty for GPs in Training, Dr Sean Black-Tiong, told newsGP the new AGPT Program provides a ‘very supportive and structured’ program to prepare for Fellowship assessments, while harnessing the variety the career choice brings.
‘Training to become a GP has been the most rewarding step I took in my medical career,’ he said.
‘Work as a GP is varied and interesting but can also be tailored over your career to suit your passions and values.’
For Launceston GP Dr Toby Gardner, that message also rings true.
‘General practice affords the ability to work as both a generalist, though also develop niche skills in particular interest areas,’ he told newsGP.
‘No field of medicine allows more flexibility around family, lifestyle, special interests or creative pursuits outside of medicine.
‘This ability … keeps morale high, and ensures that everyone continues to love coming to work, so we can provide the best possible care for our patients.’
Dr Gardner has worked as a GP since moving to Tasmania as a general practice registrar in 2006, after looking for a ‘tree change’ from regional Queensland. After joining the General Practice Training Tasmania (GPTT) program, he moved to Launceston to stay for the duration of his training.
But choosing a career in general practice was not always on the cards.
‘It was a bit of an experiment, having always thought I’d move into physician training and ultimately interventional cardiology, though I loved the fact that there was so much to learn in general practice that I’d never been exposed to before in the tertiary sector,’ he said.
Dr Gardner ended up being offered a partnership in the practice while he was a registrar, which continues to grow, as well taking on an Extended Skills post at the University of Tasmania, where he now teaches emergency medicine and general practice.

Dr-Toby-Gardner-article.jpgDr Toby Gardner, Supervisor Liaison Officer with the AGPT Program: ‘No field of medicine allows more flexibility.’
He also helps to run an urgent care centre out of his clinic and the variety that general practice offers is evident in Dr Gardner’s career, who is now a Supervisor Liaison Officer on the college’s GP Training program, after doing the same role with GPTT for the past 10 years, as well as a regional representative with RACGP Tasmania, where he enjoys being part of the RACGP’s advocacy domain.
‘All the doctors at our practice have special interests in which they work, either in our practice or externally, at family planning, headspace, alcohol and drug services, education, surgical assisting, respiratory clinics or nursing homes,’ he said.
As part of the RACGP’s delivery of specialist training, recruitment of medical educators across the country began late last year.
One of those successful recruits was Dr Helen Mullner, who has been working in general practice for almost two decades and gained RACGP Fellowship 14 years ago.
Currently a GP working in Adelaide, she is also a Senior Regional Medical Educator with the AGPT Program and having been involved in general practice training for 17 years with her state’s regional training organisations, she is looking forward to now being part of the college’s training program.
‘Training the next generation of GPs can be such a joy to know that there will be others following me in the next 10–20 years when I think about retiring,’ she told newsGP.
‘I’m excited to [continue] working in the AGPT space as I know that the more I enthuse the registrars helps to keep me passionate and upbeat, as well as educated, about being a GP.’
On the AGPT Program, the RACGP and ACRRM provide ongoing education, mentoring and oversight from local medical educators to support participants on their journey.
With the current challenges that face general practice, Dr Mullner said part of her role is to help better equip future GPs.
‘Aiming to do this without being cynical or jaded is one of the reasons I keep doing the medical education role, knowing that their early training years should set them up for success, sustainability and enjoyment,’ she said.
For Dr Mullner, there are two things she loves most about being a GP.
‘The first is the incredible variety. I often have no idea who or with what will be walking in the door, especially with new and unfamiliar patients, but even with those I’ve been seeing for some years I can be surprised,’ she said.
‘I have never been bored with what I do in my work as a GP.
‘The second … is the journey I am on with each and every one of my patients, over a period of time. Even those I see infrequently; I have gotten to know over the past decade or so and enjoy seeing them through life’s ups and downs.
‘I also appreciate the extent to which the family doctor is pivotal, much more so than any other doctor in the life of my patients, and the impact we can and do have in advocating for them and in facilitating lifestyle changes and preventive health measures.’
For those interested in training to be a GP, Dr Mullner believes there is no better reason than the end goal.
‘You can become a qualified professional working one-on-one with your own list of patients in the setting of your choice, without the hierarchy or constraints of a hospital, in a team environment, being a specialist generalist and having the option to develop additional skills on the side, such as providing antenatal shared care,’ she said.
‘What’s not to love about that?’
Applications for the 2024 AGPT Program close on Tuesday 18 April and are available on the RACGP website, alongside the application handbook, eligibility guide, training locations and key dates.
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Dr Robin Dubow   30/03/2023 6:43:12 AM

I will find it hard to encourage new graduates to choose GP as a career until the government thinks it is a worthwhile option and funds it accordingly.