GP Supervisor Marita Long is returning the inspiring mentorship she received as a mature-aged registrar.
Marita Long, then aged 36, was breastfeeding her third child when she had a vocational epiphany: to study medicine and become a GP.
She fellowed 12 years later, when her children were aged 3, 11 and 15.
The daughter of a tirelessly-working doctor, a young Marita had determined not to follow in his footsteps. Until her life-changing realisation as a mother, she had forged her career as a nurse, predominantly in paediatrics.
“We’d moved from Melbourne to Tasmania; they were crying out for doctors in regional areas, so it seemed like a natural progression,” Marita said of her career change.
In five years as a doctor, Marita, now aged 52, is leaving an indelible mark on the profession as a health carer, and educator of new and existing doctors.
Her teaching journey with General Practice Training Tasmania last year evolved to also becoming a GP supervisor at Sorell Family Practice, one of the three Tasmanian clinics where Marita practises medicine.
Marita has a special interest in women’s health and dementia education, teaching the complexities of dementia at workshops facilitated by GPTT and Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre, in collaboration with Dementia Training Australia.
She is also helping to develop dementia teaching plans for General Practice Supervisors Australia, which will cover teaching strategies on identification, diagnosis, management, end-of life, and caring for the carer.
“Because we are an ageing population, there will be a significant rise in dementia,” Marita said.
“So, we have to get ourselves skilled up to manage it. We have to take some ownership.
“If we don’t make a timely diagnosis, that has a very negative impact on the patient; and they can’t have an input into patient-centred care.”
Early diagnosis also gave an opportunity to prescribe medication that might help improve the patient’s function, Marita added.
She said supervisors and registrars who had attended the dementia workshops had reported feeling more confident about diagnosis and management of the condition, and hoped the teaching plans would also have a significant impact on GP education.
“It’s hard stuff for a registrar to learn when they have come out of the hospital system, which is focused on fixing things – to working with dementia patients and their families,” Marita said.
Fun Friday a chance to talk ethics
Marita conceded she was not a natural teacher – so, discovering GPSA and its teaching resources was akin to finding a pot of gold.
“Before I became a supervisor, I didn’t know GPSA existed!” Marita said. “Having discovered the GPSA teaching plans has given me a format for lessons.”
Marita said giving her registrars the pre-reading provided in the teaching plans ensured “a really productive, engaging teaching session; something really tangible”.
Another teaching gem for Marita and her medical practice peers has been the GPSA communication flashcards – available in Dr Talk (clinical) and Shades of Grey (ethical dilemmas).
This has sparked a fun, informal teaching session for supervisors, registrars, medical students – and any other practice staff in the clinic’s tearoom – on “Fun Friday” also dubbed “Hamburger Friday”.
“While having hamburgers for lunch, we have an ethical dilemma discussion (inspired by a Shades of Grey flashcard).
“It allows us to have a bit of fun, something to talk about – and a teaching session,” Marita said.
Not only does Fun Friday spark discussion about ethical dilemmas and professionalism in an informal, non-stressful setting, it is an opportune way to engage non-supervisors in informal teaching, and hopefully, a spin-off benefit of inspiring their own GP supervisor journey.
Circle of supervision
Having started her own GP and supervision journey in mid-life, Marita is passionate about paying forward the great mentorship she received as a registrar at Sorell Family Practice.
Meanwhile, she is delighted GP supervisors are continuing the same circle of quality mentorship to her daughter Ella Robinson, a first-year GP registrar in Brisbane.
While it is yet to be seen if Ella will someday also take the leap into supervision, Marita said any GP interested in becoming a supervisor would be well-equipped to enjoy the role with GPSA support and resources.
“Supervision adds variety to my day. If you can teach a registrar, you can teach the patient, and that’s a fundamental skill.”