GP Supervisors: A vital part of General Practice training

GP supervisors and their practices have been the cornerstone of the AGPT program since its inception and GP supervisors value the respect, recognition and reward they receive as a key enabler to GP training.

Now that the Australian GP Training (AGPT) program, The RACGP’s Practice Experience Pathway (PEP), ACRRM’s Independent Pathway, and the RVTS pathway all fall under the auspices of the colleges, the time is right to support our learners across the board with funded in-practice teaching and supervision.

Imagine the message it would send to Government ministers and policy advisors alike; GP supervisors are essential to training our future workforce safely.

We look forward to hearing the college positions on GP supervision long term, particularly now that the AGPT transition to college direction is almost complete and their vision for the future of general practice supervision reflected in the evolution of all training and support programs and pathways.

While it remains to be seen what supervision supports will be available via the More Doctors for Rural Australia Program (MDRAP) being rolled out in 2020, we expect that policy makers will understand the risk they take on in rolling out programs that are under resourced in terms of supervision. The outcome would undoubtedly be akin to the pink batts scandal of the Rudd Government which saw a number of deaths as a result of inadequately trained people performing a job without understanding the safety standards required to perform the job to a professional standard.

Patients who are often cared for by Australian and overseas trained doctors with limited experience are particularly vulnerable to treatment where our junior doctors are not receiving adequate supervision and in-practice teaching.

The transition of training thus represents a golden opportunity; to fund GP supervision supports consistently to support educational quality.

Nationally, it would be difficult to find anyone to reasonably argue that IMGs engaged in the PEP program needed less support than GP registrars engaged in the AGPT program. The RACGP and RTOs are to be commended for providing more support than these under-supported learners previously had access to. Programs being rolled out via RTOs will undoubtedly support IMGs to a point, but this is no substitute for adequately funded in-practice teaching and supervision.

GPSA contends that any agency rolling out a program without adequately funded supervisor mechanisms puts patients at risk. Learners need dedicated time to learn from their supervisors to become better practitioners.

Both colleges have stated their commitment to the apprenticeship model on a number of occasions, including rightly highlighting the risk in letting pharmacists prescribe and dispense. Presumably because there is a little bit more to general practice than getting a dosage right for a patient. The same is true in GP training. There is a little bit more to supervision than just checking on a patient before they leave the practice. If you want clinicians to actually learn under an apprentice model, you have to teach them. Not in a classroom, not online, but with real patients and allowing time to learn face to face with their supervisor, in both informal and formal settings.

GP supervisors have the desire and capacity to teach but not at a cost to their own income. Currently, we have some of the most at risk, unqualified practitioners in some of the most challenging rural and remote situations receiving the least support. It makes no sense and the solution is so simple.

If you want the best patient outcomes, engage your key enablers; your GP supervisors in all levels of General Practice training.

Yours in GP training

Dr Gerard Connors
Chair GPSA