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What is a supervisor worth?

GPSA recently compared the programs in relation to practice subsidies, supervisor payment and percentage retention and were astounded by the incoherence of supervisor funding between the programs. It is complicated to unpick but the end result is stark. The figures tell a story about the most vulnerable and least equipped learners in the most complex clinical learning environments receiving the least support.

There’s the rub – GP supervisors carry the vicarious liability should a patient be harmed in the process of seeing a learner under our supervision, so it is in our vested interest to ensure the patient is safe. A capitalist might say “Perfect – they’ll keep doing it for free – or even better at a personal cost to the GP supervisor.”

A setter of standards should be more interested in whether learners at every stage are learning and developing with appropriate mentorship and supervision.

That’s why it is particularly alarming that programs over-represented by IMG participants have no supervision resource attached to ensure that it is above a basic check before the patient leaves the practice.

Over the past 20 years GP supervision has been employed across many different training pathways and programs. Unsurprisingly, or surprisingly depending on your vantage point, each places a different value on GP supervisors – yet Australia’s future family doctors and their patients would be unsafe without them.

Behind every new GP fellow awarded the highest marks sits many GP supervisors that assisted their journey along the way. It’s not until our new fellows experience supervision themselves that they see how truly financially unremunerated it actually is. Thankfully GP supervisors are motivated by more than income in their pursuit to teach the next generation of family doctors.

So what is a GP supervisor worth? Patient safety, mental health, learner safety, future workforce, quality – and that is truly priceless.