Chair’s Report March 2022

Nicole Higgins
GPSA Chair, Dr Nicole Higgins

Supervisors – As servant leaders we continue to get on with the job

Supervisors understand servant leadership better than most – after all, almost everything we do serves and advances a greater purpose – patient wellbeing, community health, public spending, and importantly renewing our workforce and replacing ourselves.

There are very few GPs who are ‘Just a GP’. Many of us sit on boards, faculties, run businesses and while change happens around us, we keep the ship steady and on course. That is because supervisors understand Done is better than perfect: perfection is achieved through the courage to learn whilst doing and improving with feedback. Such is the nature of supervision and registrar training.

With 10 months until transition of training back to the colleges, GPSA is feeding back to the colleges and government what we need, what we expect and how support for supervisors, training practices and practice managers can be improved. Time is of the essence.

We need to ensure that general practice as a profession is equitable, sustainable, consistent and flexible enough to attract a new generation of doctors. General Practice is not a self-sustaining renewable resource. Registrars, Supervisors and the General Practice Profession as a matter of sustainability need to be recompensed adequately and competitively with other medical disciplines. GPSA strongly supports the progression of parental leave for registrars and is involved in discussions on portable entitlements and remuneration.

"supervisors understand Done is better than perfect: perfection is achieved through the courage to learn whist doing and improving with feedback. Such is the nature of supervision and registrar training."

Dr Nicole Higgins

All doctors-in-training must be supervised

Patients deserve to be treated by a doctor-in-training who is supervised. No matter what program – AGPT, Fellowship Support Program (PEP), MDRAP or RJTIF, our learners deserve an equitable system that supervises and supports them through their learning journey.

Adequate resourcing

The nationally consistent payment of supervisors and training practices needs to be applied consistently across all GP training programs including John Flynn, RJTIF, MDRAP, PEP, FSP, IP, and AGPT (including RVTS supervisors and training practices). Acronyms are confusing aren’t they? Shows you how complex this has become!

Hard to fill priority locations should be supported with bespoke registrar and practice supports to fill them as a priority as RTOs have done. 

National, Plain Language Practice Agreements

We currently have 9 RTOs each with their own practice agreements ranging from 5 to almost 30 pages in length. Some in plain language and others thorough in their legal language. Practices want to be able to quickly and plainly see what they agreeing to in taking on registrars – now and into the future.  

Adequate Supervisor CPD

Supervisor CPD needs to be funded and flexible. Face to face peer networking and support combined with online training with training pitched to the right level of experience. Just like a new registrar – new supervisors learning needs are very different.

Adequate Practice Manager CPD

Practice Managers are truly unsung heroes in the GP training space. They are most often the information gateway to supervisors, as well as the key enablers of so much of the GP training program. So much so you don’t notice their work until it is absent. This important group need to be catered for in the new GP training paradigm as they have been under the RTO training providers.

Adequate Supervisor Liaison Officers (SLO) representation and support

SLOs are an essential cog in GP training. They reflect the vast and specific needs of supervisors nationally and provide a local and contextualised view of GP training in the regions. SLOs need to be recruited, retained, resourced, and connected nationally as a peer support network promoting best practice. 

Our SLOs need to:

  • know who the supervisor cohort they are supporting, 
  • have support and resourcing to communicate Best Practice in their liaison with supervisors and training practices.
  • have support and resourcing to network with their national counterparts to advance Best Practice 

Adequate Practice Liaison Officers (PLO) to support local delivery

RTOs have evolved over time in their service delivery to practices. Those that rate highest among supervisors, practice managers have a highly effective practice liaison and support staff. This must be replicated by the colleges as they move forward.   

IT and communications systems developed for the end user

GP Supervisors and Practice Managers need to be placed as a priority in IT development and communications systems. This will require adequate user acceptance testing by Supervisors and Practice Managers to build best practice into the systems being developed now.

GPSA has approached the colleges and the department to be involved with their development of management systems and with the Health Services Australia payment system.

Continuous Improvement vs Quality Assurance

GPSA is excited to introduce the GP Clinical Learning Environment (GPCLE) Framework to supervisors and practices. This is a system that makes finding and doing anything to do with training a registrar simple and easy. I am a supervisor and a practice owner so anything that can easily support me to improve the training I deliver and support my practice manager is a big yes from me. 

The common denominator between high performing and low performing training environments is that both are accredited. There is no review of quality. Practices and Supervisors are best supported by a consistent orientation to best practice and continuous improvement. The GPCLE and resources must be integrated with accreditation and CPD in the future training program and adequately resourced.

GPSA is a small organisation with a big heart and a big impact.

Last month we held our strategic planning weekend and board review. It was wonderful to see the team face to face and to plan for an exciting next 4 years. GPSA and the board thanks Dr Collie Mullins who is stepping off the board. Collie has made a great contribution and she will be missed.

GPSA is about to put out an EOI for new board members.  We are an experienced board who gets stuff done. AS GPSA are committed to diversity, we encourage EOIs from:

  • early career junior supervisors looking to diversify their career
  • supervisors from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • ACRRM supervisors.

If you would like to know more email me at chair@gpsa.org.au

Yours in Training,

Dr Nicole Higgins

GPSA Chair