Students and registrars launch mission to redefine general practice

3 minute read

The national GP registrar and student associations united for a roundtable discussion on the future of the workforce in Melbourne at the weekend.

GP Registrars Australia (GPRA) and the GP Student Network (GPSN) are teaming up to fight for a more inclusive and supportive vision of general practice, starting from day one of medical school. 

Talking down general practice is so common in med school that it’s often referred to as the “hidden curriculum” – but while there’s been a lot of talk, no one group has managed to make inroads so far.  

This is exactly why two groups working in concert might stand a better chance. 

Representatives from the GPRA’s national advisory council and GPSN’s national executive met face-to-face in Melbourne over the weekend for the first of what GPRA president Dr Karyn Matterson hoped would become a yearly event.  

Following the collaborative meeting, the groups emerged with three joint priorities for advocacy in 2024.  

These included increasing the number of GP registrars teaching students, GPSN leading a project to standardise the quality of GP placements, and reframing the perception of medical students in GP placements. 

Examples of this last initiative included using the phrase “student doctor” instead of “medical student”.  

Currently, the number and timing of GP placements that a student completes is up to the discretion of each medical school, creating extreme variability across the sector.  

GPSN chair Shawn Yang said the three priorities aimed to underline to peers and patients that being a GP was not just a career, but a “multifaceted role embedded in the health of communities”.  

“By reshaping perceptions about GPs in universities, we want to ignite a new appreciation for the integral role GPs play in holistic healthcare,” he said.  

Members of Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand were also involved in discussions, and Dr Matterson said they were especially keen to eliminate GP-bashing.  

“It is really difficult … because we’re talking about something that is intangible,” she told The Medical Republic.  

“We all get it from a conceptual point of view – that when you badmouth someone or something, it’s really, really bad.  

“But how do you how do you put the steps in place to combat it? And what do you track? 

“We were fortunate that we got to sit around a table and were able to workshop that and talk about it more.” 

Individually, GPRA also came away from discussions at the weekend with a set of priorities for registrars in 2024.  

Working out how to implement a portability of leave scheme was still a big-ticket item, but so was maintaining freedom in terms of models of care.  

“[They were eager to avoid] being seen as second rate to non-GP specialty training programs, specifically [in relation to] pastoral care and independence from being shackled to a single-employer model,” Dr Matterson said.  

She also noted that there was a “painfully evident” disparity in pay and conditions for registrars across the country.  

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