After 36 years as a GP supervisor Dr Geoff Norman is first to admit a supervisor does not need to know everything; but should be ready to learn.
“Remember you do not have to be a great learned teacher. I certainly am not,” the Nambour Medical Centre doctor on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast said.
“A supervisor is one who supports and guides.”
Geoff, a recipient of the GPSA Recognition of Service Award (35-plus years), is currently supervising his 39th and 40th registrars.
The supervision stalwart advises peer supervisors to learn with their registrars, tap into training resources, and encourage a practice culture where everyone is on board with GP training.
“It keeps me young; it’s enjoyable. One of the reasons why I keep going is because we are well supported in the practice, and have other doctors that share the teaching load,” Geoff said.
His journey to supervision stems from a love of tutorial learning acquired in high school. With four students and a passionate teacher, Geoff thrived in the small-group learning environment of his advanced geography class. Fast forward to his role as a supervisor, and Geoff brings the same benefits of tutorial learning to his registrars.
In his early career as a GP in a small practice, Geoff took on the occasional registrar, primarily to help manage the case load.
When the practice amalgamated with another small practice in 2012 with whom it previously shared a registrar, the new practice continued to embrace registrar training. This dedication is evident in the Nambour Medical Centre tea room where every registrar, mostly GPT1s, is recognised on an honours list.
“I have always enjoyed providing guidance to young GPs as they start their journey,” Geoff said.
“They have differing backgrounds, experiences, skills, and personalities.
“Having registrars provides a challenging refresher every year to general practice. It also helps stimulate my personal learning.”
Geoff said he was also stimulated by the challenges and rewards of supervision; he enjoys helping registrars grow in confidence, patient load and being accepted into the practice by patients.
“There is always a balance between letting them develop their own skills, preferences, and style whilst endeavouring to ensure they fit within our practice’s expectations,” he said.
As Geoff edges towards four decades of GP supervision, he has many practical tips for his supervisor peers.
“First and foremost, get everyone in the practice encouraging and accepting registrars,” he said.
“We have five registered supervisors and all our doctors are keen to teach: it is such a comfort to both me and the registrar.
“It is an enjoyable experience for all. We are all learning together.”
Geoff advised supervisors to get to know their registrar on arrival; ask about their medical, social and personal background to develop a picture about their learning and support needs.
He also advised supervisors and their training practices to “be organised so that you cover the basics in the first few months”.
This includes using an orientation checklist (see example at https://gpsupervisorsaustralia.org.au/orientation-checklist/ ) and “always having cases and techniques “up your sleeve so that you are never lost for a teaching session”.
“Keep calm and relaxed. Be accessible,” Geoff said.
“Don’t let little issues irritate but be firm when something important needs to be addressed.”