25 August 2020

RACGP: last call for life-changing rural GP training

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) is encouraging future GPs to ‘go rural’ and opt to train in a rural or remote community in 2021.

Applications for the final intake of the RACGP’s 2021 Australian General Practice Training open on Monday 31st August. To find out more, visit: www.racgp.org.au/agpt

Chair RACGP Rural Dr Michael Clements said there are more opportunities than ever for GPs who choose to train in rural and remote Australia.

“It really is the time of the rural GP, it’s a time where rural communities need us the most and where GPs really shine.

“Rural and remote communities have faced fires, floods, and now COVID-19. It’s not just those with symptoms who are reaching out to their GP, there are many more worried about COVID-19 who are seeing their GP for anxiety, stress, financial distress.

“All of these major events have really highlighted the incredible role GPs play in rural communities – and that’s a big attraction for those considering where to do their specialist GP training next year.

“GPs training in a rural or remote community will find great variety, which really sets you up for a medical career with endless possibilities. You might be helping to deliver a baby one day, providing mental health care the next, and dealing with a public health emergency.  

In a 2019 survey of over 1,500 trainee GPs, respondents rated the best aspects of training in rural Australia as exposure to a range of patients and cases, the scope of clinical or procedural experience, and being part of a community.

Similarly, the top reasons for reasons for choosing to specialise as a GP, rather than another speciality, included the opportunity to build long term relationships with patients, the diversity of patients, and comparatively favourable hours and working conditions.

The Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) National Registrar Survey (NRS) also found those who choose to train in a rural or remote community are more inclined to want to remain practising in a rural community. Some 34% of rural pathway respondents said they intend to be working in a rural or remote location in five years’ time, compared to 9% on the general pathway.

Dr Clements, who has a background working in rural hospitals, as a rural GP and practice owner, said he was lucky to have great rural exposure when he was in medical school.

“I was able to put my hand up for a wide variety of very rich rural experiences when I was training.

“The thing that’s attracted me to keep doing rural and regional medicine is the connection to community. I’ve certainly really gained a lot professionally and personally by being connected to the rural towns that I’ve worked in.

“Where I now practice in Townsville, a relatively big regional city, after the floods we had that sense of connection to the community. I’ve learned that in such times of great difficulty, the role of a rural GP is really to reflect their communities’ interests, to advocate for their patients, and to help bring them out of disaster and to recover.

“Rural communities rely very much on their GPs for advice, reassurance, treatment and ongoing care.

“My advice for junior doctors deciding where to do their training is to broaden your horizons and consider rural – you will get a life changing experience and it will set the foundations for a career that you can take wherever you want to go.”

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Media and Engagement Specialist