How to prepare to enter community general practice while completing your hospital training time

It can be difficult to know what to do after accepting an AGPT training offer. The duration of time remaining in the hospital system will vary significantly between registrars, but no matter which stage of training you are at, there are always opportunities to prepare for entry into community general practice.

Make the most of your hospital time

The time before entering community general practice is an opportunity to gain a broad range of knowledge and skills that will ease the transition period. This is the time to challenge yourself, ask questions and take on tasks that extend your current skill set.

General rotations such as emergency medicine, general medicine, psychiatry, general surgery, paediatrics, and obstetrics and gynaecology will give you a good foundation from which to enter general practice.

Ensure you use these rotations to gain as much experience admitting patients and seeing patients in outpatient clinics as possible. Sometimes you will need to initiate these opportunities yourself, particularly if you are an intern or JMO.

Let your senior medical officer and consultant know that you are eager to gain this experience before entering general practice. In the near future, you will be the one referring patients to them and it is in their mutual interest for you to be well prepared.

Whilst on ward rounds, think about the decisions being made and the reason behind them. If you are unsure of the clinical reasoning, now is the time to ask. It is important to ask questions even if it makes you feel vulnerable or embarrassed because it will lead to a broadening of your knowledge and ultimately make you a better doctor.

In general practice you will ask questions of your supervisor on a very regular basis. This is expected, and there will be many presentations and questions from patients you have never encountered before.

Professional development

Self-reflection is another good skill to develop before entering into general practice.

Reflecting on your skillset, identifying potential gaps in your knowledge and acknowledging your strengths and weaknesses is an important element of being a good GP. If you have a professional development allowance use this to invest in courses or workshops that address those weaknesses and knowledge gaps.

Some suggestions for helpful professional development prior to starting in general practice include:

  • Sydney Child Health Program
  • Certificate of Women’s Health
  • Sexual health courses
  • Skin cancer excision courses
  • Dermoscopy courses
  • Paediatric Life Support
  • Adult Life Support (check to see whether this may be funded by your RTO)

There is also a lot of free professional development available for members through the RACGP gplearning portal and the ACRRM website along with Cancer Council Online Learning, Andrology Australia and the Jean Hailes websites.

Local public health networks also host free events and training that may not be advertised to you within the hospital system. It is worth speaking with a GP colleague or practice manager to find out what free professional development opportunities are available in your area.

For RACGP members, Mental Health Skills Training is available free through the gplearning portal and can be useful to complete 1-3 months before entering community general practice. This training takes 5-6 hours to complete and gives you a better understanding of mental health services available to patients and how to complete a Mental Health Care Plan (MHCP). Completion of this training also allows you to bill a higher item number to Medicare when completing MHCPs for patients in general practice.

It is advised that you contact your local Regional Training Organisation (RTO) early to discuss mandatory hospital rotations for your chosen college and what opportunities may be available for Extended and Advanced Skills posts. Sometimes these terms can be completed prior to entering into community general practice.

Build connections

Networking is an important part of general practice training and having a network of connections can help ease the transition from hospital to community.

Ensure you are a part of the Future General Practitioner (FGP) network and do not hesitate to contact your local general practice advisor for advice.

Your local RTOs and RLOs (Registrar Liaison Officers) can be valuable sources of information and may be able to point you towards useful networking and educational events. There may also be a state-based Facebook group for registrars.

Update your CV

Preparing for interviews at different practices, thinking about where you would like to work as a GP registrar and identifying advantageous skills for each town or clinic are all key aspects to consider. If you need help writing and building a medical CV, visit the GPRA webpage for useful tips.

You should also consider what references you will use when providing your CV to different practices. A suitable reference should be someone who knows you well enough to be able to comment on your professionalism, knowledge and suitability for general practice. They do not need to be the most senior consultant you can find.  It can also be valuable to contact current registrars in the practice or region you are considering to find out more about the practice, local services and community supports.

By Dr Natasha Nottingham

Dr Nottingham is a RACGP urban GP Registrar working in Aldinga, a beachside town 45 kilometres south of Adelaide, and an FGP Advisor providing ongoing support and guidance to all doctors that are interested in a career in general practice.