Uni’s push to restore GP honour

4 minute read

Students at USyd’s General Practice Clinical School will divide their placements evenly between medicine, surgery and general practice.

A dedicated clinical school at the University of Sydney will, it is hoped, change the narrative on general practice and restore the profession to its former glory.

The General Practice Clinical School, which was officially launched on Wednesday, sits within the Sydney Medical School at the same level as the metro and rural clinical schools.

It forms part of the University of Sydney’s new Doctor of Medicine curriculum, which was redesigned in 2020.

The upshot of the new school is that medical students at the university will now be required to do a one-day-per-week placement in general practice over 16 weeks in their second year, and full time for eight weeks in their final year.

This means fourth-year students will spend equal amounts of time on placement in medicine, surgery and general practice.

A dedicated general practice clinical school also gives third-year students the option to complete their compulsory 14-week MD research project alongside GP researchers.

Previously, University of Sydney students only did GP placements for one term in their third year.

The school’s clinical co-directors are Associate Professor Fiona Robinson and Associate Professor Melissa Kang.

“For the first time, [general practice] is on equal footing with those other important parts of medicine, and I think that will allow students to be able to immerse, understand and really appreciate the benefits of general practice,” Professor Robinson told The Medical Republic.

Speaking at the National Press Club just a few weeks back, Health Minister Mark Butler said that while general practice desperately needed more funding, it also needed a cultural shift from medical school onward.

“We need to engage our students in a way that makes them love learning, and learning general practice in particular,” Professor Robinson said.

“I think we’ve got the academics now in place to really take that teaching to another level and show our students how wonderful general practice can be.”

Professor Kang is particularly keen on reviving the dwindling field of GP researchers, and pointed out that, per 1000 GPs, there are just three publications per year.

It’s dwarfed by the output of other disciplines; there are 68 publications per 1000 surgeons per year and 160 per 1000 physicians.

“When I first started it was sort of this golden age, which didn’t last very long,” Professor Kang told TMR.

She estimated that the golden age of funding for GP-led research lasted for around 10 years, starting with the Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development Strategy funding injection in the early 2000s.

“There’s long been a disparity between the settings in which research in Australia is conducted … and where most people seek access and receive healthcare,” Professor Kang said.

Having lost several senior GP researchers to retirement over the last year or so, Professor Kang said the clinical school would be starting from a fairly basic level but would be fostering a research lab and culture as a priority.

On a more granular level, senior lecturer and GP Dr Linda Taoube said students would also be introduced to the more mundane, day-to-day elements of general practice.

“They’re getting exposed to [the business side of general practice] through work placements … some of our students are also asked to sit at the front desk and actually triage patients while on placement,” she said.

“We talk about item numbers as they come up, but we’re also very careful about not making our teaching so dedicated to being about item numbers and the MBS.”

There are also specific assessments focussed on writing good discharge summaries and other aspects of the clinical curriculum are guided by data from the University of Sydney-run BEACH study.

“Collectively, our goal is to support students’ participation in clinical practice, help them to step outside their comfort zone, become a reflective practitioner and become more capable,” Dr Taoube said.

“And in doing so, we’re hoping that a bit more than 14% will stay with us in general practice.”

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×