Dr Madhara Weerasinghe’s love for general practice is testament to the impact a GP supervisor can have on the life of a registrar.
Like many of her peers, Madhara was “a little bit nervous” when transitioning from hospital training into the unknown of general practice in February this year.
But the positive influence of her first GP supervisor Dr Tiffany Jones at Dee Why General Practice in northern Sydney was immediate, confirming for Madhara she had chosen the right speciality.
“I learnt a lot of things in my early weeks from Tiffany that are ingrained in me now,” Madhara said.
“I felt empowered and encouraged to learn and continue to train as a GP registrar, and provide the best care for the patients that I come across.”
While it’s impossible to quantify the long-reach of Tiffany’s influence on registrars during her six-year career as a supervisor, Madhara’s nomination of a Recognition of Service Award for her first GP mentor proves the power of mentorship is immense.
“A lot of Tiffany’s patients mentioned to me when I saw them that she is a great GP, but she is also a great educator and supervisor,” Madhara said.
“Tiffany really took into account that I was a first term registrar and was very patient in guiding me in how things need to be done in the local area.
“There is a lot of clinical education to cover but also a lot of non-clinical things. There are things that you can’t learn from a textbook or from online, but you can learn them by observing your colleagues and supervisors.
“For example, the local health district practices that occur and the Medicare system, and dealing with the different availability of investigations.
“In the hospital system you don’t have that bigger picture about what things cost; in general practice you need to be a little more judicious in what tests you order.”
Tiffany also taught Madhara how to navigate the inevitable uncertainty of general practice.
“I had a lot of cases where I couldn’t find an answer, but Tiffany said, ‘This is quite common’, and then I was able to get used to that.
Other valuable lessons Tiffany imparted early were how to be thorough in documentation.
“I learnt how to record relevant clinical information and the concept of safety netting, and providing patients with a follow-up plan if things don’t respond to the treatment plan.
Madhara also appreciated Tiffany’s early lesson in consultation time management.
“She taught me that sometimes you can’t solve everything in one consultation.
“I learnt when to say, “I am glad you have bought this issue up today. It sounds really important and deserves a lot of time and attention; how about we schedule in time for another day.’ ”
Role-modelling was also a powerful teaching tool.
“When I observed Tiffany with patients, I saw how she really had their best interests, and that empowered me to do the same,” Madhara said.
Now in her second term under “another wonderful supervisor” at a smaller practice in nearby Carlingford, Madhara’s supervisors’ positive influence looks to have cemented a desire to pay forward mentorship.
“I’ve been really lucky to have such good guidance at both practices,” Madhara said.
“I have had an interest in teaching since medical school, and I would one day like to pass on information to other registrars like I have received during my training.”