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‘Huge hive of clever minds’ driving GP training


Morgan Liotta


11/04/2024 4:13:52 PM

Tasmanian medical educators discuss collaboration and supporting registrars since the transition to college-led training.

Dr Arella Keir and Dr Lisa Clarke
(L–R) Dr Arella Keir, Tasmania Senior Regional Medical Educator, and Dr Lisa Clarke, Tasmania Regional Director of Training with her eldest son at his first parkrun.

Dr Lisa Clarke loves being a GP, but even up until the end of medical school, she didn’t want to be one.
 
After exploring different areas of medicine before training with the Australasian College of Emergency Medicine, it dawned on her what was missing part-way through this program.
 
‘Getting to know the people behind the clinical presentations, preventive care and continuity of care, to name just a few,’ Dr Clarke told newsGP.
 
‘My belief at the end of medical school was, “I don’t know what I want to be, but I know I don’t want to be a GP.” 
 
‘The reality was that I had no clue about this wonderful profession – you can’t be what you can’t see.’ 
 
Establishing a therapeutic relationship with patients remains one of the things she loves most about general practice.
 
‘No other specialists get to look after the whole person through all ages and stages, including seeing them when they are well and helping them to stay well,’ she said. 
 
‘It truly is the best specialty for “people” people.’
 
Fast forward some years and Dr Clarke is now the Tasmania Regional Director of Training for the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Program.
 
When nationally consistent training officially returned to the RACGP and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine on 1 February 2023, she found it ‘quite an extraordinary experience’.
 
‘Just like the new GPs we are training, we identified many “unknown unknowns”,’ Dr Clarke said.
 
‘Many were things the RACGP pre-transition couldn’t have identified before we were in the thick of it.’
 
However, it wasn’t long before the ‘significant benefits’ of being part of a national organisation became apparent.
 
‘[The] sharing of information and resources had significant challenges when we operated as individual regional training organisations,’ she said. ‘But now we have access to a huge hive of clever minds and training expertise.’ 
 
This collaboration has huge benefits for registrars and supervisors, according to Dr Clarke, who says the exam support resources and programs available to registrars are ‘outstanding’ and ‘far better’ than any of the external courses registrars used to spend thousands of dollars on. 
 
Supervisors are also able to access some of these exam resources and there are ‘excellent’ foundations modules for new supervisors.
 
The same features ring true for Dr Clarke’s colleague, Dr Arella Keir, a Senior Regional Medical Educator in the Apple Isle.
 
Dr Keir told newsGP the last year of college-led training and the vision of a nationally consistent model with regional flexibility has been ‘incredibly rewarding’.
 
‘We were fortunate in Tasmania that our team moved across to the RACGP relatively intact and we have been able to maintain our focus on supporting our registrars, practices, supervisors and other stakeholders,’ she said.
 
‘The highlight for me as a medical educator has been the opportunity to collaborate, share resources and skills at a national level.’
 
Despite the challenges of new processes, policies and systems evolving throughout the year requiring teams to continually adapt, both medical educators say there has been an overall positive attitude towards improving national delivery across the RACGP training team. And the training team has also been lucky that it included many faces already familiar to registrars and practices, with Dr Clarke saying these pre-existing relationships have ‘helped a lot’. 
 
‘We were ducks paddling furiously in the hope that we could provide a smooth first year for our registrars and practices,’ Dr Clarke said.
 
‘All of a sudden, general practice training was the most visible part of the RACGP for many of our stakeholders, so not only were we learning the new training systems and processes, we were also figuring out the other parts of the college as stakeholders brought non-training matters to us.’  
 
Dr Keir, who was first inspired into general practice after a four-week placement during medical school into a rural community in NSW, knows the ‘privilege and value’ of listening to people’s stories, which she learnt through this placement.
 
‘The GP there was incredibly passionate, clinically competent and a great advocate for his community,’ she said.
 
‘He showed me … [that] despite being dedicated he was still able to balance sports, family and community engagements.’ 
 
This is one of the rewards of being a GP that Dr Keir has on her list of goals for the next year of training – to inspire GPs in training to see the value of community.
 
‘We hope to continue to provide high-quality training and to really focus our attention on the promotion of general practice and recruitment of registrars into the program in order to help address the GP shortages seen nationally,’ she said.
 
Meanwhile, Dr Clarke’s goals for the next year are to lay strong foundations to ensure registrars are supported along their journey.
 
‘GP supervisors are the bedrock of GP training,’ she said.
 
‘Our approach this year includes boosting support for training sites and supervisors, to promote sustainable supervision and high-quality training experiences for registrars.’
 
She is excited to see the way registrars embrace this year’s format of the core out-of-practice registrar education program, which contains fewer large group workshops, and instead more small-group, peer-led learning. 
 
‘It will provide them with greater autonomy and responsibility for their learning, connections with their peers, and leadership opportunities – all things that are important for the future of our profession,’ Dr Clarke said.
 
‘We need more junior doctors to choose general practice and rural generalism. We are putting considerable effort in here in Tassie to hopefully start to change the narrative about general practice within our hospitals.
 
‘We aim to provide junior medical officers with GP lenses and connections to general practice training during these formative years, in the hope we’ll see more of them applying for AGPT in the years ahead.’
 
Applications for the 2025 AGPT Program close on 15 April.
 
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newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?
 
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newsGP weekly poll Which of the below incentive amounts (paid annually) would be sufficient to encourage you to provide eight consultations and two care plans to a residential aged care patient per year?

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