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One year of GP training: A medical educator reflects


Morgan Liotta


1/02/2024 4:24:50 PM

The return to college-led training has brought new opportunities and nationwide distribution of diverse skills, an RACGP medical educator says.

Dr Chris Starling
Dr Chris Starling on his local morning walk in Port Stephens, Worimi Country, which he says is ‘a great way to start the day’ and is sometimes ‘lucky enough’ to see dolphins.

It’s been one year to the day since the specialist medical colleges officially reassumed responsibility of general practice training in Australia on 1 February.
 
So how have medical educators delivering the training found the past 12 months?
 
Dr Chris Starling is a the Head of Training Local Medical Education for the North-Eastern Hunter, Manning and Central Coast training region of New South Wales, Worimi Country.
 
It was in his fifth year of medical training that Dr Starling first saw the appeal of general practice when he completed a placement with a rural GP.
 
‘I was impressed by their clinical ability, range of skills and their ability to balance their work and life interests,’ he told newsGP.
 
‘This particular GP went surfing on their lunch breaks.’
 
Although he spent the majority of medical school planning to undertake training as a surgeon after this rural placement, he then entered the hospital system and knew after his first intern rotation in orthopaedics that ‘general practice was my career choice’.
 
‘This was further enhanced by various GP role models throughout my training,’ Dr Starling said.
 
Now a GP at a local family practice as well as lead RACGP medical educator for the region, he has witnessed how colleagues and general practice registrars have adapted to the transition of college-led training in the past year – what he describes as ‘a major undertaking’ for all the stakeholders involved.
 
‘My medical education and operations team transitioned across from GP Synergy largely unchanged, which was key to maintaining stability for our registrars and supervisors,’ he said.
 
‘During 2023, I was particularly impressed by the ability of our registrars and training practices to adapt to the numerous changes that took place.
 
‘As a medical educator it has meant new opportunities, increased access to resources and the ability to leverage a considerable range of medical education skills across the national footprint.’
 
Holding a special interest in assessment, one of Dr Starling’s personal highlights was the introduction of an enhanced set of exam support options, including Self-Assessment Progress Tests, Communication Skills Specialists and access to feedback from the exam lead.
 
But as with any transition, Dr Starling notes there have been challenges related to policy changes, procedures and learning new systems.
 
‘With the move to a national training program, we have brought together nine regional training organisations who were all delivering effective training for their regions,’ he said.
 
‘This leads to challenges in creating a nationally consistent model with regional flexibility. While there have been challenges related to transition, I have found that we are all working toward the same goal, and the benefits have far outweighed the challenges.’
 
As the second year of RACGP and Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine general practice training rolls out, Dr Starling’s main goal is to continue working towards a profession-led training model, with a particular focus on small group learning and support of registrars and training practices.
 
‘Locally, we have aligned our training coordinator support to GP catchments and our focus will be on further enhancing our relationships with our practices, supervisors and registrars,’ he said.
 
‘We continue to look at our rural workforce and are working closely with our workforce planning team and the data from the Workforce Prioritisation Planning Organisation.’
 
And while he has never managed to go surfing at lunch, Dr Starling’s passion for being a GP and soaking up the work–life balance his regional community has to offer, is far from fading.
 
‘There is no other setting in medicine, that gives you the same flexibility to develop a career with multiple interests/roles and still have time for your family and own interests,’ he said.
 
‘I also have a particular interest in clinical reasoning and there is no better environment than general practice to develop your skills.
 
‘What I love most about GP is the autonomy, breadth of practice, ability to make a difference both for your individual patient and through advocacy at a community level, and the relationships you develop with your patients and their families.’
 
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Dr Nicole Jayne Higgins   4/02/2024 11:05:54 AM

Hi Chris. Sometimes we get so busy ‘doing’ that we forget to celebrates our wins. Thank you to you and your team for all that you do. MEs go above and beyond and give so much back to the profession.
We will be showcasing the fab people who contribute so much to our profession through NewsGP and Friday Fax. It is a great article @Morgan. Thanks x
Nicole