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Rural supervision valued and rewarding

There is great satisfaction in mentoring GP registrars in a rural practice, according to veteran South Australian GP supervisor Dr Martin Altmann.

Doctors Martin and Fiona Altmann enjoy inspiring young doctors to pursue medical careers in rural regions.

These rewards range from helping registrars develop confidence and experience, teaching procedural skills needed in rural settings, to inspiring young doctors to immerse themselves in rural practice and lifestyle beyond fellowship.

Martin became the first GP supervisor at Bridge Clinic in Murray Bridge when he and GP wife Fiona Altmann joined the practice 26 years ago.

It was not long before his colleagues, Fiona included, followed suit: the practice now has a one-to-one supervisor-to-registrar ratio, with up to six supervisors each supporting a registrar at once.

Martin, a GP obstetrician, has supervised more than 30 GP registrars, and is enthusiastic about continuing his mentoring role.

“Because we are rural, we try to train registrars in procedural skills, such as obstetric, anaesthetic and emergency medicine,” he said.

“Our doctors at the clinic provide in-patient care, obstetrics, anaesthetics and emergency medicine care after hours.

“We try and get the registrars involved in community and sporting events. Patients love to see the doctors involved in their community.”

Martin credits great mentors throughout his own training, for his initial motivation to teach registrars.

The Altmanns settled in Murray Bridge in 1992 on the back of three years procedural training in Somerset, England.

“I worked half of the time in obstetrics at the hospital and half of the time as a rural GP. Fiona worked in anaesthetics and intensive care,” Martin said.

The pair’s commitment to medicine in rural Australia was recognised in 2013 when they were named joint winners of the Rural Doctors Association Australia Rural GP of the Year.

“We love the variety of work, the challenges and the rewards of cradle-to-grave care across many generations of local families,” Martin said.

In terms of his role as a supervisor, Martin said teaching – and learning from – registrars kept him young and up-to-date, and he credited patients’ receptiveness to care in a training practice as important to successful supervision.

He enjoys watching his registrars’ confidence and experience grow, and helping them understand their value in a rural practice’s workforce.

“Registrars are a great workforce contribution and are very valued by our practice and patients.

“It’s really rewarding to see them stay in our community or go to other rural communities where they are very valued.

“It’s always satisfying to hear they have progressed to supervision themselves.”

Martin’s advice to other supervisors is to touch base daily with their registrar and ensure they are coping.

“Through our experience we can help registrars problem solve, and teach them they don’t have to solve all problems on the same day; that often time, nature and common sense declare the problem.

“We can teach them to work through that uncertainty and not become overwhelmed by it.”