Supervisor Profile - Dr Brad Murphy

Brad Murphy
Pictured: Dr Brad Murphy OAM
Dr Brad Murphy OAM has had an extensive career as a GP supervisor and work within Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and veterans’s health in particular. He is a proud Kamilaroi man who has also served in the Navy, and is passionate about developing more First Nations GPs, and he has played a vital role in mentoring new First Nations GPs. In 2022, he received an OAM and is running for the presidency of the RACGP.
What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision ?

It’s really lovely to give people coming from the hospital system and overseas an introduction to what Medicare is all about and to show them what you can do for different subsets of the population, like Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and Veterans that that we specialise in, as well as other groups. Helping them to know what’s available for your community. Also, to show them some of the challenges in General Practice about dealing with the hospital system, and registrars bring some of their skills and contacts within the public system to help bridge some of those gaps. For me it’s acknowledging that it’s a two-way street. It keeps us as GPs and GP supervisors on our toes, because when you engage in training you keep your own skills up, which flows on to the other staff who buy into the team-based approach around training. It’s really important that people going through their training understand the challenges of people answering the phone and people who are demanding and need help straight away. I have been involved as a supervisor for over 20 years, including work with ACRRM working with registrars who were most in difficulty, which was a great learning pathway for myself. I’ve really taken a lot from this journey and if you give people wonderful experiences, down the track you hear of them in other places in training programs, rural and remote medicine and some returning to my practices which is really great. If you can inspire people to consider general practice, or just as importantly to have a really good appreciation of general practice, so that if they happen to be the emergency position in Brisbane, who takes your call it two o’clock in the morning when you’re in crisis in a rural center, that’s gold. I think to be involved in that process is really exciting.

 

For me it’s acknowledging that it’s a two-way street. It keeps us as GPs and GP supervisors on our toes, because when you engage in training you keep your own skills up, which flows on to the other staff who buy into the team-based approach around training.

What type of things do you feel you have learnt from GP registrars?

From my point of view culturally, I mean from an indigenous point of view, you think you’re culturally aware and from a veteran and first nations point of view, I I’d like to think I am, but we all have better and worse days. Certainly, dealing with a lot of our overseas trained graduates, you get a huge appreciation of a whole range of communication strategies and cultural perspectives that come into play about how they communicate with patients. If nothing else, because of the multicultural perspective of the training that I’ve been involved in over the last 20 years, I’ve certainly got a huge appreciation of the various socioeconomic and cultural perspectives that come into play. One of the things that I’m really proud about in what we do with first nations health is that if you do first nations health really well, you can’t turn those skills off. So, when you’re dealing with mainstream populations, then everyone benefits from it. I think it’s very much the same if you have a multicultural perspective. If I was to say one thing, it would be communication strategies, picking up on body language of patients. It’s not just about Aboriginal people that don’t make eye contact. Lots of people don’t make eye contact, and it can often mean different things, but it’s about picking up on awkwardness or people not wanting to be disrespectful by asking. Being comfortable enough to ask them and make sure that the message is getting across. You can think you’ve nailed it and you haven’t even touched the mark. So I think that that would be the really big lesson for me.

What are the challenges of GP supervision?

Mostly if there’s difficult registrar or difficult student. The good ones are easy; not easy as in, you don’t need to do anything, but because they’re passionate, they’re enthusiastic, they’re engaging. You don’t have to go looking for them. The ones that are having challenges, they’re the ones that are hiding in a busy day. It can be difficult to know that there’s a problem. Because when you’re supervising people and it’s not exactly one on one, they can be having problems behind closed doors. You are very much relying upon communication from the patient to let you know that there’s a problem. It’s being astute enough to monitor it sufficiently, to give people respect and allow them to learn, but at the same time, not letting things get out of control. I think that’s a real skill to know. The intern that I’ve got at the moment has been extraordinary from day one, amazing. She’s been doing surgery, and is a really valuable part of the team. And while they’re not here permanently, she has behaved as if she is. Because of that, it’s allowed us more time to spend together to actually do learning. Whereas a previous student was very quiet and very knowledgeable, but you wouldn’t know it. It was a real challenge because in the 12 weeks that they were here, I don’t think I truly connected with them. We tried multiple strategies as a team and talked to external parties and supervisors that they’d had in other placements to try and work through what the issues were. By the end of that 12 weeks, I felt really drained. To this day, I don’t feel that I necessarily was able to get the best out of the opportunity for them. I think that’s the real challenge for me, where it’s difficult and not straight forward to make sure you are using a learning process that gives them the best opportunity. There are really valuable opportunities in recognizing problems and exploring the difficult nature of how you actually deal with that, and not being too proud to ask for help.

What do you focus on when supervising registrars?

It’s trying to recognise where the shortfall is. Is it a cultural perspective? Is it an interpersonal communication thing? I mean, people with similar cultures still have trouble communicating. The other thing is identifying any skills deficit that happens to be there, which is a problem in general practice. Their skillset is huge compared to our colleagues that can be specialists in a narrow field. You’ve got to, have some degree of trust in your trainee that they’re hit the mark, and I think that extends to supervisors as well. You need to have some appreciation of what’s happening behind closed doors to make sure that everyone’s safe and that good patient care outcomes are being achieved, and a learning opportunity is achieved as well. I think that can be really difficult to do. It means the whole team being onto it. I don’t think it’s the responsibility of the supervisor. I think it’s the whole team, because I’m relying upon the feedback from nursing staff and reception staff to say, “Hey, there’s a problem here.” It’s a bit like dealing with mothers when they bring their children in. We may not agree on what the problem is, but a worried mother is always right. You know, they know their children. So you have to explore that. If the reception staff say to me, there’s a problem with a registrar, then there’s a problem, even though we may not agree on what the problem is, something needs to be addressed. It’s a really complex arrangement and you add that to your day. It’s important to try and allocate some training time, but sometimes the training doesn’t fit neatly into a 15-minute slot, it’s training on the run. Opportunities to debrief and get to know people are also important. We’ve got quite a social, aspect to how we operate the practice here, which gives us time to engage with families and stuff as well, which hopefully allows people to feel more comfortable and have a different sort of engagement, but you know, it doesn’t always work. It’s a great model that’s worked for us, but it hasn’t worked all the time.

How could more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander GPs be supported?

When she was health minister some years ago, Kay Patterson said that she thought it was inappropriate that first nations doctors qualify and don’t go back to their communities. But there are complexities of practicing in your own community. Like telling one of your Aboriginal elders, that they can’t have something like narcotics, or other stuff even and the need to show respect. So sometimes it’s better to go to another community down the road in another place where you can still be from a first nation’s background, but not have those community connections at the same level. But the other thing is, why does a first nations doctor not have the entitlement of a career progression equal to their colleagues? If you happen to be a neurosurgeon in New York, what an amazing message that sends back to your community about the opportunities that lay ahead for you, if you want to commit yourself.

So I think that, there is a level of ignorance, and sometimes amongst ourselves, and you’ve gotta have a lot of insight into this. The journey begins very early, it’s basically at childbirth. It’s about giving people a really good health experience. So giving a young mother a really good positive experience so that she has a healthy baby that gets born with every opportunity in a lifetime. That the baby then gets good schooling and opportunities and mentors and Australian indigenous doctors. AIDA do a lot of stuff when they have board meetings in a community, and they’ll actually engage with the community while they’re there, obviously with the aim of growing doctors, but actually it’s about inspiring the kids at school to finish school and do whatever they want. If they happen to go into the health field, that’s awesome. But it’s really about giving the opportunity to actually finish school. I think those sorts of things are really important. When people are going through the health training, it’s about allowing them to be a student. I know that when I went through, I was token a blackfella in my tutorial group. So anything that came through that had a first nations flavour to it, I became the expert. But I was paying my money. I was there as a student to learn. It assumes that I’ve got all the answers and I don’t. It is also ignorant to the fact that some of these things are talking about my family and can be very painful. When you’re talking about some of these journeys through diabetes and amputations, you know that could be my grandmother. There’s a level of ignorance about that journey that is done by people absolutely meaning well, but we get better at this as we go on. James Cook was really good at it, but nonetheless, I found myself in that scenario. A lot of first nations people often don’t necessarily get the straightforward road through. So they don’t necessarily finish high school and go into medicine. They’ll, they’ll often be an Aboriginal Health Worker, do nursing and then go into medicine.

I still remember one of my colleagues that I visited when I, went over to Broome and we went out to this remote community that he’d worked in as a nurse. Then he’d finished his medical school and he was on the AIDA board. As we drove into the community and the houses started to populate around you, you could hear these voices saying Aaron! Aaron! and the joy of the town about Aaron coming back. I just think that they’re the memories that will always hold true to me. A really good doctor going back into some communities doesn’t always inspire that sort of response. And the trick is how do you? Why can’t you? Some doctors absolutely do. If I was to say, well, what, what’s the journey look like? It’s about making sure that a baby is born healthy, free of foetal alcohol syndrome and those sorts of things, but given the best possible start to life into a family that appreciate healthcare as an opportunity that’s extended to them. Good schooling, good outcomes.

Central Queensland university are running a program with the University of Queensland called the regional pathway to medicine. It’s a three year biomedical science degree, and three first nations people started two weeks ago. The first nations people on the course are guaranteed if they pass to transition from the end of their course straight into the University of Queensland medicine degree. I’m their mentor for that seven year journey, plus we’ll have a lifetime journey of hopefully becoming friendly as I help support them in their career. If they happen to end up as a neurosurgeon in New York, I’ll have a pretty amazing phone friend. It’s about networks, absolutely. About mentoring and networks. That’s the complex nature of it, and if we do that across the spectrum, you don’t turn those opportunities off for anyone. We take that as a bit of a fundamental right in mainstream health.

Does being Aboriginal influence the way you supervise?

Yes, on a couple levels because I haven’t had that typical pathway into medicine. I left school in year 10 because someone said to me, it’s not all that important anymore, but I became an associate professor at Australia’s private university. I’m now a professor with a year 10 education, without a master’s degree. It’s pretty much about being in the right place at the right time when people like Bond needed desperately to have some curriculum development in that area, otherwise they wouldn’t get their registration. It’s about opportunities, but hard fought ones. I mean, no-one’s given it to me on a silver platter, I think it’s certainly the road less travelled. Professor Peter O’Mara would tell you a similar story, starting out he also left school in year 10 and became a mechanic in the mining industry and ultimately he’s now the professor of medicine at the University of Newcastle.
When I started, there were 30 Aboriginal doctors and 70 medical students, and now there’s several hundred, but the disproportion is still quite large and there’s an expectation for you to go onto committees. Everyone wants the token blackfella, and it often happens in general practice. But a lot of the committees that I’m on with say Queensland health, the Queensland health people are all remunerated, but the expectation is I’ll do it for nothing. I’m happy to do it for nothing because that’s about advancing the healthcare of my mob, but my wife is not indigenous and she is entitled to superannuation and the rewards for a life’s hard work. So every time I go and do that, that actually affects other people’s bottom lines as well. I think the expectation that we’ll keep giving for no remuneration is wrong, when everyone else around is being remunerated. No-one wants to talk about the money and it’s not about the money for me, but I’ve still got to pay to keep the business structure running here.

One of the wonderful things in our practice is that the place is full of Aboriginal artwork. I can tell you the stories behind the artists and, how it came to be here, much of it is to do with, sometimes local guys selling it out of their boot, because they were desperate for money. Others it’s because I sat in the central Australian desert with the artist and watched them paint and talked to them and shared their story. But my mainstream patients that come here know that they’ve got an Aboriginal doctor, that they’re being treated by a black fella, but they know that there’s a cultural respect that happens here that I’ve had to work hard to get and they have that trust in me. So it’s not second rate medicine, they’re coming here because it’s top notch, or I certainly think so.

Because you have an opportunity to be involved in a lot of the committees and processes, you also bring that back to the coal face. A lot of the problems that we might have in general practice today around the medical provider number or the pharmacy trial that’s in the newspapers, the fact that you have firsthand knowledge and participation around some of those issues is really valuable. I’m conscious too that sometimes when you go off and advocate for people in the profession that I’m off advocating and often not being remunerated so that I can actually help the bottom line of the guy down the road, who’s still churning through the patients making a profit. I don’t care less about that, but the concept’s not lost on me. One of the things that I love most about medicine is doing that medico political stuff, which is obviously why I put my hand up to run for the presidency of the RACGP college. Certainly to be Australia’s first ever indigenous president of any medical college would be a great message to send back to the community, to say you can achieve this. So I think there’s a level of pride and you learn to be humble. But at the same time, you still have to put yourself forward in order to get where you want to go. I think that reflects upon your role as a GP, the way that you practice medicine and the way that you supervise and teach as well.

What are some of the key considerations that you think are important to tackle with first nations health?

I think it’s about being appreciative. It’s about taking every patient that walks through your door on face value and not expecting or pigeonholing them and if you do that for every patient, you’ll always be on a winner. I think that, you know, everyone’s an individual treating them as such, treating them as a whole person. And I think that’s the thing about the pharmacy trial is that it’s really difficult to piecemeal this. It’s all well and good to give them their Diaformin for their diabetes, but are you addressing the smoking issues, the obesity issues, the complexities in the home, all of those, key issues around, home hygiene and overcrowding and all those sorts of things that are drummed into us day in, day out as we go through our training. So I think those things are really important and so that when someone comes to see you, there’s an opportunity to upsell. But for us, it’s about looking at the bigger picture, not about necessarily selling them probiotics with their antibiotics. So, you know, I think for me, that’s it, it’s about the patient relationship. It’s about understanding people’s individual journeys, because not every first nations person has had the same journey socially or financially and all those sorts of things. It’s about seeing people on an individual level, treating them as such and going on a journey with them.

For me Aboriginal health is about a journey of complexity of care, treating people who are healthy and try and keep them that way. I try and avoid the emergency management in that I don’t want to just do coughs, colds and saw holes. You have a relationship with a patient who comes in occasionally for immediacy type issues, but in the main it’s about coming to see you to tell you that they’re well and to do their bloods and talk about all those things that keep them healthy. That to me is the model that I use for all my practice. All of my patients sign up for that. Even down the track, when they say, “oh, no, we don’t want to come in, there’s nothing wrong with us,” I say “Well, that’s what you signed up for. Maybe you need to consider another practice.” It’s just one model, but that’s fed by that first nations thing. It’s about taking people on a journey of healthcare and keeping them healthy and doing the other stuff that punctuates along the way, rather than making that your mainstream contact.

It's about understanding people's individual journeys, because not every first nations person has had the same journey socially or financially and all those sorts of things. It's about seeing people on an individual level, treating them as such and going on a journey with them.

What rewards have you gained from your work in veterans affairs?

I think from my perspective, because I did six years in the Navy starting as a 15 year old, I have a shared experience with veterans. Our experiences are very unique, but we’ve all done our junior level training, the NBCD training where we go through the gas chamber and they whip the mask off at the end, and you cough and spew as you come out. So when veterans come to see me, we start on a level of shared experience and I think that’s really amazing. Not everyone necessarily gets that. We’ve got five doctors here. Two of us are Navy. I think the thing is understanding the veteran journey and you don’t have to have lived it. It’s interesting because most of the time the causes of problems are not what you think. A lot of these guys have taken people’s lives, and while no-one tells me they loved that experience, problem causes are most often around management decisions or Intel that they gave that wasn’t followed. So therefore, troops went a different way and they were involved in a bridge that was blown up and lives lost, or they had to pull out of a community early and the insurgents came in and raped and pillaged the community and other things that are outside their control. It’s actually quite interesting to talk to these guys about what their triggers are. Everyone’s experience is their own, and you go on a journey with them and you allow them time to tell their story. It took 27 years to get one fellow to actually open up to me, and all I asked is what his triggers and when do I need to keep you on my radar during the year? When are the anniversary dates so that I can just make sure I’ve got my eye on you. He then opened up and told me the lot, which wasn’t my question. I said to him, it’s not important, I know what the issues are, I just need to know when I need to keep an eye on you. Over that period of time, you get to develop that relationship.

The other thing for veterans affairs is understanding that they are a special group of people who have opportunities in healthcare that mainstream don’t have. There’s almost nothing you can’t get for them, if you can mount an appropriate evidence based response. You can get them things like sunscreen and things that aren’t available on PBS for the mainstream, you can actually get approval for on RPPs. Things like for example new diabetic injection, you can actually get for veterans for weight loss if they’ve got an accepted condition that losing weight would be beneficial for. There’s a process you can go through. We’re trying to get this information into the medical schools and across the curriculum, but the take message is that if you ring up this number, you can often find different opportunities. Knowing that their family are entitled to things like open arms counselling as well. It’s all a little bit different. Having an understanding and knowing where to phone, you can usually get some good guidance. Just generally being aware that veterans might have other opportunities that you might not get for mainstream patients, and Aboriginal veterans get a different level of care as well.

How has GPSA Supported you?

There’s been a lot of value for me meeting and talking to the staff at conferences, in those days when we were allowed to travel and have conferences. I’ve always found the team to be really good and very approachable. That was always evident. Certainly through the RTOs and other stakeholders, GPSA have always had a great presence there in the training that we’ve received as supervisors coming along and talking to us about issues relating to business management even and remuneration issues, and the importance of not necessarily negotiating with your registrar because it makes the landscape more complicated. I’ve always found that to be really useful, as well as the webinars. Even knowing that the organisation is there is invaluable, particularly if you’ve got a problem. It’s one thing to not be embarrassed to ask a friend, to extend that to the public hospital system, and interns and training providers, if you’re not sure and don’t necessarily have that relationship with the training provider and don’t want to discuss it with them, knowing that GPSA is there is really invaluable to know that you can get an independent hearing from someone with a wealth of experience on this issue. It might be my first time, but it might be a common problem with registrar training that they can help us with, so I think that’s really amazing.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?

Training is probably not my absolute desire or my greatest skill. We all have things that get us out of bed in the morning. But it’s certainly been an experience that’s given me a lot of joy, and to watch other people go through their careers and to grow and often have contact around the place is really a lovely experience. It valued adds to the surgery, notwithstanding sometimes it’s a bit problematic. In the main its been a really positive experience and I would encourage people to embrace it, not be afraid to ask for help, and go a journey with their colleagues. The mentors that I’ve got through the college that I’ve met, all wear similar hats. It’s been really amazing, that fact that I’ve got all these phone a friends if I’ve got a problem. I don’t always need to use it, but when I see these people it’s a really great experience it’s like catching up with long lost family, so it’s a great feeling of camaraderie in the group. I would absolutely encourage people to get involved, and ideally to get a few people within the practice involved so that you’re not doing it on your own. I think it’s a wealth of knowledge and experience and helps to optimise your own skillset and keep it current. Particularly in the digital age where a lot more resources are at your fingertips, it’s less daunting. So give it a go and don’t be afraid to reach out to GPSA and your training provider for help if you need it.

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

Supervisor Profile - Dr Graham Toohill

Dr Graham Toohill
Pictured: Dr Graham Toohill with registrar Dr Melissa Lee

Dr Graham was recently recognised by GPSA for over 25 years of service as a GP Supervisor. He has worked at Leongatha Healthcare since 1994 after working in Nepal for 12 years. He is married to Sue and they have 5 children and 4 grandchildren. Graham has special interests in Skin Clinical work and Travel medicine.

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision ?
I really enjoy it and and get a lot of satisfaction seeing registrars getting more confident in their skills and experience. It is incredibly rewarding if they come back to Gippsland and practice here, with several previous registrars still practicing in the clinic today.  

What type of things do you feel you have learnt from GP registrars?
GP registrars all come at different stages of experience. One guy had worked in plastic surgery previously. It was terrific to see him take off a skin lesion on somebodies’ ankle which looked very difficult to close. He did a horizontal mattress suture and I have learnt from that and used this technique ever since and taught it to other Registrars. We also have lunchtime teaching sessions, where registrars prepare a relevant topic to present which they have researched.  I really enjoy these sessions where I always learn something.

What are the challenges of GP supervision?
It’s a challenge to stand back and watch a registrar do things in the practical procedure department, because you never know what they are going to do, and you know you could do it quicker and easier yourself. But you have to give registrars the opportunity to try things and learn in this way. I tell registrars that my door is always open to them and they do come in and interrupt me quite regularly. Patients are very supportive of this and do not mind. One of my current GPs said when he was a registrar, their GP supervisor told them never to interrupt him. I aim be the opposite, with an open-door policy and even though this can be challenging at times, it’s still worth it.

What are the differences working as a GP supervisor in a regional location?
There are much broader education opportunities in regional practices with a local hospital for admitting patients to and continuing to monitor them, rather than sending off to a hospital somewhere else. Registrars get to experience the full range of services in the clinic, including obstetrics, early childhood care and following through the life course up to geriatric and palliative care. All these areas are available to registrars who come here. There is also a terrific ambulance service if patients need to be sent elsewhere. Registrars can learn in all areas of medicine including assisting with caesarean sections, anaesthetics and skin cancer surgery. There are very broad opportunities to learn holistic medical care at all stages of life.

Do you have any anecdotes of a good supervision experience that you would like to share?
I had a registrar here on an ACRRM program who needed to tick off on completing a skin excision with flap repair. About this time I found a growth on my leg and a biopsy revealed it turned out to be a skin cancer. I suggested that this was the perfect opportunity for my female registrar to complete her training in this area. She did the excision and flap on my leg and did a great job. I was very impressed by this registrar and her approach.

How has GPSA Supported you?
GPSA was most helpful to me during supervisors networking weekends. We had some terrific weekends with lectures and workshops and networking. GPSA’s support and input in these weekends was excellent and the main way I have felt directly supported by GPSA.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor? Definitely go for it! It’s a wonderful role getting to know someone and gaining trust in them and vice versa. Helping with difficult cases and teaching your knowledge is extremely rewarding and I would recommend being a GP supervisor to anyone who wants to give it a go and have a part in training the next generation of GPs.

Supervisor Profile - Dr Alvin Chua

Dr Alvin Chua
Pictured: Dr Alvin Chua

Dr Alvin Chua was recently recognised by GPSA for over 17 years of service as a GP Supervisor. Dr Chua graduated from The University of Adelaide in 1997 and has a wealth of experience in hospitals across South Australia including Modbury Hospital and Lyell McEwin Hospital; and various general practices in rural and metropolitan suburbs of Adelaide. Dr Chua became the founder of the Health at Group in 2001, with fellow Director and Practice Principal Dr Anna Schettini, and currently works at Health at Campbelltown in South Australia, In 2004 Dr Chua graduated Musculo-Skeletal Medicine at Flinders University, and continues to have an interest in Musculo-Skeletal Medicine. Dr Chua is a GP Supervisor through the GPEx Training Program.

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision ?
Being able to shape the future of general practice and replace the workforce. Teaching and encouraging people who might look after us in the future is satisfying. I am always learning something everyday and I believe that the day you stop learning is when you become arrogant and dangerous, and you should stop practicing. As a GP you are always learning every day more than other professions, and registrars teaching us as well is a part of this.

What type of things do you feel you have learnt from GP registrars?
The current cohort of registrars put more emphasis on work life balance than my generation. In my time people put in 40-50 clinical hours plus overtime. This generation have a much better work life balance which people of my generation need to work on. Hopefully this prevents more burnout in the future, which I see in my generation with GPs sometimes becoming burnt out, bitter and cynical. The new generation has a much better perspective on work-life balance.

What are the challenges of GP supervision?
The biggest challenge is trying to compete with a dwindling workforce, competing with hospitals which offer much more generous remuneration. This makes it hard to compete for trainees. The GP workforce is dwindling and remuneration is tied into Medicare rebates. Hospitals have been able to increase 3-4% per annum when Medicare rebates were frozen from 2012-19, making us behind the eight ball and trying to catch up. The lack of exposure to general practice in medical training, with only 2-3 weeks during medical school leaves a lot to be desired. Previously, we had the Prevocational General Practice Placements Program (PGPPP) which ran from 2004 to 2014. Under the PGPPP, during their internship, registrars were allocated to a general practice for twelve weeks at a time. A lot of the registrar cohort in this time ended up as GPs and later trained other GPs as well. I was sorry to see that program go, and the whole GP workforce were sorry to see it go. The government does not seem interested in reinstating this program. Generally, there’s an expectation from Government that GPs continue to do things with altruistic values with lower expectation of monetary rewards. This is one of the biggest struggles we face as a profession.

How has GPSA Supported you?
GPSA has supported GP Supervisors like myself with negotiation of the National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of GP Registrars (NTCER) with GPRA. This sometime involves pushback when registrars have their own agendas and we as GP supervisors have our own limitations of what we are able to pay for registrars. GPSA tries to adopt an approach of all of us working together in general practice, not a ‘them’ vs ‘us’ mentality. In the past registrars adopted a ‘them’ vs ‘us’ approach which was not very conducive to working together.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?
 Get your feet wet and get into it. You’ll find its quite rewarding and the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Registrars are future colleagues of ours and also our future workforce.

Supervisor Profile - Dr Paul Mercer

Dr Paul Mercer
Pictured: Dr Paul Mercer

Dr Paul Mercer has enjoyed a long and varied career as a GP Supervisor since 1988 supervising 78 registrars during this time. Since establishing Silky Oaks Medical Practice in Manly west, Queensland in 1987, Paul has developed skills in chronic disease care, addiction medicine, mental health care, palliative and aged care, and minor procedures. Paul is aware of a maturity that has grown through the experience of registrar teaching. This has allowed the development of material for conference presentations around such topics as “Wisdom & Learning” and “Curiosity & Learning” in registrar training and teaching a number of Doctor’s Health workshops. Paul is currently involved in a GPTQ research project looking at the teaching of doctor’s health in the registrar training experience.

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision?
In a GP Supervisor career spanning over 33 years, I have gained many rewards from working intensively with registrars, experiencing great camaraderie and enjoyment as well as developing my professional skills. Learning and developing teaching skills in the real world has been a major part of this journey. In my practice we adapted our GP training approach to incorporate vertical integration, so that medical students can learn both from GP supervisors and registrars in the practice. Developing a practice culture where everyone values learning, including the patients was a major part of this. I developed my skills in team building in the practice through this process. I enjoyed sharing a meal with each registrar at the start and end of their term which helped in establishing strong working relationships with them. Overall, working as a GP supervisor has kept me fresh and current in my clinical practice, as well as establishing firm friendships, attending weddings, and celebrating births of children of registrars I have trained.

Do you feel that you learn from GP Registrars also? If so, what type of things have you learnt?
I have learnt a lot from registrars over the years, including finding out more about different learning styles they may have, and developing different teaching and learning planning approaches to accommodate this. Some registrars were particularly good at planning their own learning and I learnt a lot from them. Thanks to being responsive to their enthusiasm to learn, I have managed to maintain close to cutting edge medicine in my own practice. I have enjoyed learning from the specialty skills some registrars may have acquired before joining our practice. I also learnt a lot from education and training conferences and workshops which formed a background to my 1 to 1 teaching. Learning from GP supervisor peers and gaining encouragement from them helps generate wisdom. I also learnt research skills through my involvement with some registrars.

What are the challenges of GP supervision?
The main challenges are balancing the competing demands of managing a practice, having a growing family, seeing patients and training registrars. My wife has had to warn me at times to keep these different areas under control. It is always hard to take leave when I am tired if I know that a registrar is struggling and there is no-one else to supervise them. Learning to teach outside of my own particular learning style was also a struggle but allowed me to mature as a teacher. The emotional challenges of registrars and issues they may be having were also problematic at times. Managing patients with misunderstandings of different experience levels of doctors has also been challenging. Rostering and admin also provided challenges, and delays in money for training coming through can also be frustrating. At times I have worked with registrars who may have particular needs and it has been rewarding to see every one of them go on and succeed under my guidance. This includes working with IMG registrars who have cultural and communication issues, and differences in their basic training that need to be understood and worked through respectfully.

Do you have any anecdotes of a good supervision experience that you would like to share?
At one stage I managed to catch my left foot under a ride on mower and was in hospital for a while before recovering at home. At the time it was great to see how gracious and supportive the registrars were, coming to my house for teaching sessions and ringing up for phone support if needed, as well as keeping the practice running. One registrar I worked with had their whole world collapse when their father who was also a GP died during the middle of their training term. It was an honour to support them through the difficult time after this tragedy and then see a flourishing unfold as a GP in their father’s practice. Another registrar used their lunch break to train an ocean swimming race. She was very successful at this first attempt.

How has GPSA Supported you?
I recognise the solid value of peer support networks that GPSA provides, as well as negotiating conditions for us where we don’t have the time to do this. Many of the teaching skills documents I have used have been good and useful, in particular the Ethical Dilemmas flash cards which I have found a great tool for teaching different scenarios. Conferences and other networking opportunities to speak face to face with other supervisors have been invaluable.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?
There are amazing career opportunities to being a GP supervisor. It is a role which helps in keeping up to date and challenges your own communication and clinical skills. Learning to teach others adds a layer of depth to your knowledge. It offers a goldmine opportunity to provide authentic mentoring not found in many other disciplines anymore. This is Hippocratic medicine at it’s best in the new world of evidence-based medicine.

Supervisor Profile - Dr Richard Try

Dr Richard Try Dr Rowan Kruysse
Pictured: Dr Richard Try and Dr Rowan Kruysse

Dr Richard Try recently received a recognition of service award from GPSA recognising his work over 10 years as a GP supervisor.  Dr Richard previously worked  in supervision of junior doctors, students and registrars at The Medical Clinic in Millicent SA, before moving to  Ferrers Medical Clinic (Mt Gambier) from 2011-2016. Following this, he opened his own practice, the Dr Try Medical Clinic in Mt Gambier, SA. where he has worked ever since and supervised registrars.  

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision ?
The biggest reward is the satisfaction of seeing registrars develop and qualify to become fully fledged GPs and provide independent care. Seeing the joy (and sometimes relief) when they pass their exam results is very rewarding.

It is also a way of giving back to the profession. Each one of us was trained and some of us had better experiences than others while training. Training GPs is my way, I think, of giving back for the supervision I benefitted from.

Do you feel that you learn from GP Registrars also? If so, what type of things have you learnt?
Yes, in many ways, supervision is a 2 way street: Registrars have usually just come from hospital posts and so are very up to date and capable. I feel I need to stay very up to date to keep up with them. Often they will help with this and present at clinic meetings to update us all.

I also have to adjust how I supervise and teach to fit the needs of each registrar. No two are the same, so I have had to learn how to adapt and identify areas of concern that they might not even know themselves and then help them develop these areas.

They also help me examine my own approach to medicine in terms of consultation skills and to the job as a whole. It is very easy to get stuck in a rut but supervising registrars helps keep us fresh and enthusiastic. There is nothing like teaching to give you insight into your own practice.

Working in a regional centre, do you feel there are additional challenges for GP supervision? If so what type of challenges have you experienced?*
Lack of a local support network for GP Supervision is the main one. We don’t have anyone local that we can call upon as there is no local support network for us. At the moment, the ME for our area is based in Adelaide, 450km away. I joined GPSA to try and fill this gap.

Retention of registrars is also an issue. Often registrars have to leave the clinic just when we are getting used to them and this can be frustrating for the clinic and patients. There is a regional recruitment and retention crisis and registrars moving on adds to this. Patients are sometimes reluctant to see a registrar as they feel they won’t stay. The first question a new GP often gets asked by patients is “are you staying?” I think this can put the registrar in an awkward position and we have to counsel them on how to answer it.

When we get the registrar for their second attachment, they rarely stay beyond 1-2 years, if at all. The city seems to call them all and there is no flow of qualified doctors back. Sometimes it can feel we are putting a lot of effort in for no reward but we have to temper this with the reward of seeing newly qualified GPs spread their wings and know that there will be other communities that will benefit from them.

Ultimately, we do this job to train new GPs not to recruit to the clinic however much we would like them to stay.

How has GPSA Supported you as a GP Supervisor?
GPSA has a wealth of guides and teaching plans. We all have our different experiences and sometimes might need resources to help teach an area that we have less experience in than others. I have found the resources very useful in this respect including in supporting registrars who might be struggling.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?
Do it – you won’t regret it. It provides variety to our work and keeps us fresh and enthusiastic. It can be very rewarding seeing a struggling registrar develop into an independent GP.

*Note: GPSA is currently undertaking research into models of supervision in rural communities. The related questions in this interview are in no way connected with this ongoing research. For further information on these research projects, visit the GPSA Research page

Supervisor Profile - Dr Peta Cornwall

Dr PetaCornwall
Pictured: Dr Brian McPherin with Dr Peta Cornwall

Dr Peta Cornwall recently received a recognition of service award from GPSA recognising her work over 15 years as a GP supervisor. Peta has been working at South Side Medical in McKay, Queensland since its opening in 2007. She has a drive and enthusiasm for all aspects of family medicine. She is committed to educating medical students from James Cook University and will often have them assisting her during consultations. She also mentors GP Registrars in rural and remote locations and is an examiner for JCU, RACGP and ACRRM. Peta is also a GP Supervisor for James Cook University (RACGP, ACRRM and RVTS).

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you see from GP Supervision ?
It keeps me learning and keeps me up to date with the latest developments. There is also a sense of pride I feel from seeing registers improve their skills and knowledge. It helps me to keep abreast of the latest research and keep looking things up. Unexpected questions from registrars help me to keep asking why things are done in a certain way. It also makes me realise how my thinking has changed over time. It helps me to look beyond pattern recognition and consider different possibilities in diagnosis also.

What are some of the challenges you find as a GP supervisor?
One of the challenges I find is that all registrars are different and as adult learners, they have different learning styles which I have to adapt to as a supervisor. Different personalities also respond to different ways of teaching. This can be interesting as well as challenging at times.

How have you found your experience in remote GP supervision?
Doing remote supervision I have drawn a lot on my experience working in rural and remote communities. It is important to know physically where the registrars are located, the type of patients they have, and what access they have to facilities and equipment. For instance, is it 100km to the nearest radiology centre, or is it just down the road ? Understanding geographic restraints such as this as well as getting a sense of the community can be difficult when doing remote supervision if you don’t have experiences working in remote and regional settings. By comparison, I find it much easier supervising registrars in my own clinic, as I know the environment and constraints they have to work within intimately.

Tell us about how GP supervision is different in a regional community? *
Supervising in a regional community offers additional challenges, as the practice is often smaller, with management of time being the biggest factor in being able to deliver GP Supervision. Trying to balance clinical work with supervision of registrars, it can be difficult to ensure that registrars are receiving enough supervision. There are also challenges with access to timely testing and pathology results, and a limited number of colleague GP Supervisors who I am able to discuss issues with.

Given that women are often under-represented in the GP supervisor workforce, do you feel there are any additional barriers that prevent women from becoming involved in GP Supervision? *
Most people who don’t want to become GP supervisors think they don’t have enough knowledge and are worried about the loss of income that comes with GP supervision. Perhaps women working less hours might find it difficult to justify financially the time spent in supervision. As the main earner in my household, I really had to justify to myself the personal rewards I gain from supervision to justify the loss of income from doing it. I have experienced some IMG graduates who had difficulty responding to me as a woman supervisor based on cultural differences, but ultimately they adapted to the situation as they needed my support to develop further.

How has GPSA Supported you?
I have used templates supplied by GPSA and gained access to support and contacts through GPSA. I have appreciated their advocacy for GP Supervisors in negotiating terms and conditions also. I often utilise flash cards from GPSA to start a training session, as they bring out some interesting discussions and problems. I have also used teaching plans for running sessions.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?
You have more to offer than you think. It’s rewarding and educational. Having a go at supervision for a day or two often gets people started. It can be fun and inspiring to have people interested in what you do. GPs sometimes get nervous about the challenges, but they are only challenges for a short time. Different registrars you encounter will inspire you again and encourage you to keep going. So give it a try.

*Note: GPSA is currently undertaking research into the experience of Women GP Supervisors, as well as research into models of supervision in rural communities. The related questions in this interview are in no way connected with this ongoing research. For further information on these research projects, visit the GPSA Research page

Supervisor Profile - Dr Mark Zagorski

Dr Libby Garoni and Dr Mark Zagorski

Mt Beauty GP Supervisors Dr Mark Zagorski and colleague Dr Libby Garoni (pictured above) were recognised with Recognition of Service awards from GP Supervisors Australia (GPSA) in May 2021 for their outstanding contribution of over 60 years combined contribution to Mt Beauty and the surrounding community nurturing the next generation of GPs. This recognition comes on top of a 2019 Order of Australia for Dr Mark Zagorksi, who has provided many years of service to Rural General Practice in the region. His recognition award from GPSA recognises 40 years supervising GPs in the Mount Beauty practice, passing on his wealth of knowledge.

recognition of service

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you see from GP Supervision ?

It is rewarding seeing the young registrars and their enthusiasm, and eventually seeing them coming out as great GPs and sometimes continuing in the practice. One particular John Flynn registrar came back every year for four years and much later I saw him presenting to me at a conference talking about Paediatric burns. It was great to see my student eventually becoming my teacher in this way. Another former registrar later became a partner in my practice, and others have stayed on to work within the practice as qualified GPs. Last year my heart stopped and a couple of registrars in my clinic saved my life and resuscitated me, showing the real benefits of their training in life-threatening situations and addressing my own health emergency. 

Do you feel that you learn from GP Registrars also?

Sometimes I feel as though I learn more from them than they learn from me. Registrars have access to so much knowledge nowadays and are good at gathering and remembering this knowledge, even in obscure areas. Their knowledge makes me stay more up to date more than I thought I needed to be. In training, we come up with answers and discuss different clinical situations. They learn practical things from me and I gain esoteric knowledge about different areas of clinical knowledge, as well as IT skills, which registrars have in abundance.  

What are the challenges of GP supervision?

At times there are challenges with GP Supervision, with a great deal of time spent with formal training sessions, ad hoc consultations and occasional calls in the night. It reduces the number of weekends  I can call my own, but ultimately it is worthwhile, with the patients ending up as the ultimate beneficiary. Over forty years of supervising Registrars, I could count on one hand the number of difficult registrars I have had. Previously they used to only come for a few months, but many now come for two years, so I am really able to get to know them and most are a delight to work with. 

How has GPSA Supported you?

I have received great support from GPSA over the years through information on their website, seminars and Webinars and I am quite content with the amount of service they provide for GP Supervisors. 

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?

I would encourage all GPs to supervise student registrars and each other to share knowledge and learn. In our practice, we have nine doctors and we all meet in the morning to talk about interesting cases, share ideas and discuss treatment plans. Communication is the most important thing, listening and learning from each other and looking after each other’s mental health as well. It is great to take the time to talk one on one and also as a group to support each other in this way. The only thing is that this takes time which may be used for billable work, which younger GP supervisors in particular may find difficult if they have financial burdens to contend with. 

Supervisor Profile - Dr Libby Garoni

Dr Libby Garoni Supervising

Mt Beauty GP Supervisor Dr Libby Garoni was recognised with a Recognition of Service award from GP Supervisors Australia (GPSA) in May 2021 for her outstanding contribution to Mt Beauty and the surrounding community nurturing the next generation of GPs. Libby was born and bred in the Kiewa Valley, has previously worked in Paediatrics and also has a Diploma of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. Her recognition award from GPSA recognises 17 years of supervising GPs in the Mount Beauty practice, passing on her wealth of knowledge.

recognition of service

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

What rewards do you see from GP Supervision ?

It helps to make me a better doctor as I need to describe what I’m doing and why. It also builds team bonds and team relationships. Good medicine is about being part of a team and the friendships I have established have made it very rewarding. I remember once attending an operation for my daughter and one of the doctors remembered me from supervising them many years earlier. Meeting people down the track who you have previously supported like this is a very rewarding experience. I expect to go on supervising as part of my normal work as a General Practitioner well into the future. 

What are the challenges of GP supervision?

Time management. Quality training, like quality medicine, takes time and can’t be rushed. Being a supervisor also means you must always stay up to date with current information to provide the best training possible.

How has GPSA Supported you?

I am grateful to GPSA for their support for myself as well as for practice management as a whole. Helping with resources such as contracts and allowances and keeping our Practice Manager happy have been an additional benefit. I regularly access resources and know that there is somebody there to go to if I have questions. I have found the guides and resources invaluable. GPSAs help in training and development of new registrars has always been there. 

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?

I’d always encourage them to become a GP supervisor as it’s part of being a good GP and a really fulfilling part of what I do. It makes me a better person as well as a better doctor. It really improves relationships within the practice and I can’t imagine not doing it.

Young gun of GP supervision gets a gong

The call to GP supervision found Dr Nicholas Hamilton early in his career.

In 2015, two years post fellowship, the young doctor registered as a supervisor “through circumstance” to help facilitate supervisor capacity at the newly opened East Canberra General Practice.

Dr Nicholas Hamilton

“My supervisor during my final training term was practice principal and was setting up another practice from scratch,” Dr Hamilton said.

“It was a good opportunity for me to work in a new building with all new equipment. I became a supervisor out of necessity so the practice could be a training practice.”

In December 2019, GP Synergy presented the supervisor of five years, now aged 38, the Murrumbidgee and ACT Supervisor of the Year Award.

Dr Hamilton has supervised 13 registrars, including some who have returned to the practice post fellowship.

In nominating Dr Hamilton for the award, a grateful registrar said: “This time was invaluable to my learning and ensured that I felt well supported and a valued member of the practice.

“Nick included me in practice discussions and decisions, and I grew to feel part of a community that shared my desire to support our patients while also prioritising our own interests and self-care.”

Dr Hamilton in turn values the support of his former supervisor Dr Clara Tuck Meng Soo, a recipient of the Medal of the Order of Australia for service as a medical practitioner to the community of the Australian Capital Territory.

He is grateful Dr Soo offered the opportunity to work and supervise at her new Canberra practice, and become practice principle and a co-owner so early in his GP career.

“I became a supervisor so early because Dr Soo was very experienced and inspiring,” he said.

Dr Hamilton admits being a young supervisor comes with advantages and challenges.

With a fresh recollection of life as a registrar Dr Hamilton – who is also an examiner – says it is an advantage as a young supervisor to “still be in touch with the examination process”.

“I know what it is like to be in the registrars’ shoes,” he said.

Equally, Dr Hamilton said teaching the reality of uncertainty in general practice was more challenging for a young supervisor than their senior peers.

“I feel more confident now as a supervisor in not always knowing the answers, and teaching that uncertainty is not always a bad thing; it is a part of general practice for doctors of all ages and experience.”

Dr Hamilton favours a pastoral care approach to supervision over didactic teaching sessions, largely because registrars (particularly those with speciality training) already have extensive medical knowledge and access to learning resources.

“General practice is a demanding job and you can feel quite alone; so, a lot of my teaching sessions are pastoral care conversations to help registrars strategise and work out their consultation style.

“One of the hardest things to teach a GP registrar is the need to take charge of patient care into the future; trying to help them make the switch from being reactive to proactive and giving the patient the sense that the doctor is there for them in the long term.”

 

The Dancing Doctor teaches value of self-care

GP supervisor Richard Mayes entertains shoppers at his local supermarket as The Dancing Doctor, also known as Mullet Man. Image: ABC Central Victoria, Larissa Romensky

Leading a flash mob dance in his signature mullet wig has been a joyful step to new health for Victorian GP supervisor Dr Richard Mayes.

The Dancing Doctor, also known as Mullet Man, has inspired a troupe of about 100 Castlemaine adults to reap the physical and mental health benefits of dance.

From a flash mob dance in a local supermarket during the town’s arts festival to performing at community events, Richard says the dance movement has transformed countless lives.

“It’s been the most profound, effective health promotion activity I have ever been involved in during 20 years of medicine,” he said.

Richard once battled with depression while juggling general practice, obstetrics and family life. He eventually heeded his own medical advice to patients, prescribing a new mindset for work-life balance.

He also gave himself permission to break free from the expected persona of a GP outside of their profession.

It’s a message he shares with his registrars; not to learn to dance per se, but to “walk the talk” to enjoy and role-model strategies for good physical and mental health.

“I started my career like old-school rural GPs, working all the time, trying to be all things to all people. But I became burnt-out and depressed,” Richard told GPSA.

“I am saying to my registrars, ‘Don’t make the same mistake. We are not expendable, and we are no good to anyone if we are burnt-out.

“We have registrars who are keen to do the work, but we need to teach them how to do it sustainably.

“We need to prioritise self-care and practise what we preach by fitting into our lives what gives joy and stress relief, whether that is meditation or music, or something else.”

Ripple effect

For running enthusiast Richard, learning ’80s-style soul funk routines evolved from his “daggy Dad dance moves” in the bird mascot costume at local fun runs.

A patient who was a hip-hop dance instructor urged Richard to take classes and when he accepted the challenge many others followed, including a seniors’ group, The Silver Tops.

The ripple effect has been infectious. There are many heartwarming stories of improved mobility and health, and lonely hearts being opened again through community connection.

“I hope I am inspiring registrars to do what it takes to look after themselves as well as caring for and connecting with the community on a health promotion level,” Richard, a supervisor of 10 years, said.

Richard’s example has certainly gained momentum.

“One of our current registrars has organised a monthly ‘active-wear’ Monday,” he said.

“We have all volunteered at Park Run, and Lyttleton Street Medical Clinic t-shirts are being organised for the team to wear at sport events.

“We have a nice culture of health and well-being.”

Mental Health Month (October)

GPSA asked Richard for supervisor tips as part of Mental Health Month. He advised:

“For me my passion is clinical work and teaching and education and dancing gives me that change in scene to do something different,” Richard said.

“I help my registrars find out what it is they love about medicine and encourage them to find ways to have that as part of their practice.”