Guidelines for the general practice or primary care facility

Roles and responsibilities of general practice where supervised times takes place

The primary care team should be aware of the experience and role of the student, and the need to ensure that they have adequate time for learning as well as clinical experience. Computers are required for many aspects of primary care and are certain to be an important tool in the future. It is important that students understand the role of computers during their supervised placement.

The general practice or primary care facility in which the supervised time takes place should meet the following criteria:

  1. The facility should offer the full range of ongoing primary care to all patients who attend
  2. The majority of the medical care in the facility should be provided and clinically managed by GPs
  3. The majority of the medical care should be provided by GPs who work at least three sessions (1.5 days per week) to ensure continuity of care
  4. The facility should provide adequate consulting space for the student. This may include another doctor’s room while they are absent
  5. There should be a set of reference materials and patient information materials available in the facility that can be accessed by the student. These may include copies of:
    • a general practice textbook, such as General Practice by John Murtagh
    • the Therapeutic Guidelines series
    • access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and a current medication reference, (MediMedia Australia Annual)
    • access to the ‘Red Book’ – Guidelines for Preventive Activities in General Practice
    • systematically organised patient information leaflets
    • a general medical reference such as:
      • Braunwald E (Ed). Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine
      • Weatherall DJ. Oxford Textbook of Medicine.
    • access to evidence in a suitable form, such as:
      • The Cochrane Library via the internet
      • BMJ Publishing Group. Clinical Evidence.
    • a textbook on minor surgery and procedures, such as:
      • Pfenninger J. Procedures for Primary Care Physicians
      • Brown JS. Minor Surgery: A Text and Atlas.
    • other books reflecting the workload in the practice, such as:
      • Crawford Adams J. Outline of Fractures Including Joint Injuries
      • Behrman RE. Nelson’s Textbook of Paediatrics
      • Guillebaud J. Contraception Today: A Pocketbook for General Practitioners.
  6. The facility should ensure that a private space is provided for teaching purposes and that systems are in place to protect teaching time from interruptions.
  7. Practice staff members should be informed of the function and needs of the student, provide feedback to the GP on how the student interacts with them, and encourage the student to take an interest in aspects of practice administration.
  8. The permission of the patient must be obtained prior to the consultation if undergraduate students, general practice nurses or other doctors or health professionals are to be involved in the consultation, whether through direct observation, interview or examination. Ideally, permission needs to be sought when the patient makes an appointment, or failing that, when they arrive at reception. It is not acceptable to ask permission in the consulting room, as some patients may feel 'ambushed' and unable to refuse.


Guidelines for the Supervision of Medical Students in General Practice (PDF 651 KB) is designed for use by general practitioners and the primary care team to assess their suitability and capability to take on the responsibility for supervising medical students and prevocational doctors.

Teaching medical students - Tips from the frontline an article by Dr James Best uses a case study to illustrate key aspects of supervising medical students in general practice.

Trainees in the Practice: practical issues an article that describes the key aspects of patient and financial management when trainees are present in the practice and suggests solutions to potential issues.

Practice teaching tips for busy clinicians from a series of articles originally published in the Medical Journal of Australia. These also include hospital training, but the principles apply to supervision in the general practice setting. Each topic focuses on how the clinical environment provides enormous opportunities for effective experiential learning.


For further enquires about these resources or supervision of medical students:

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