26 July 2022
Medical students get a taste of rural practice in East Gippsland
Thirty-five medical students had a glimpse of life as a rural GP in East Gippsland over the weekend.
The students, from universities in Queensland, NSW, South Australia and Victoria, attended an event called Farm Stay at the Coonawarra Farm Resort in Glenaladale.
General Practice Registrars Australia (GPRA) and the General Practice Student Network (GPSN) organised the two-day program for medical students who are interested in working as a GP in rural Australia.
The weekend offered academic and clinical activities including workshops on suturing, working with electrocardiograms (ECGs) and airway management.
Three doctors who work in rural and regional general practice spoke about their experiences and lead the clinical workshops.
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GPRA is an independent, not-for-profit organisation which represents and supports medical students, prevocational doctors and GP registrars in Australia. It has over 20,000 members.
GPRA president, Dr Antony Bolton, said FarmStay gave medical students the opportunity to learn more about a career as a rural generalist doctor, and the benefits of a rural lifestyle.
“The dwindling number of rural GPs has been caused by several factors. A report by the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care found that limited exposure to rural and remote locations during medical school and training was a key factor.
“Farm Stay aims to highlight the benefits and importance of working as a rural GP to the future medical workforce,” Dr Bolton said.
“Many regional towns and remote locations are dealing with a shortage of GPs and other health services.
“Access to community-based health care is often limited, leaving patients with long wait times to see their GP.
“This is unacceptable. All Australians should have access to quality health care in their own communities, without having to wait or travel long distances to see a doctor.
“GPRA supports Farm Stay and other events to increase medical students’ exposure to rural practice and provide information about the different training pathways they can take to become a rural GP.”
The Health department’s report recommended that GP training programs focus more on rural and remote locations, with less emphasis on metropolitan centres, and that better clinical support was needed for country doctors, including after-hours support.
“The number of medical students applying to Australia’s primary GP training program – the Australian General Training Program – has been falling over the past seven years. This national trend has also had an impact on the number of GPs who are available to work in rural areas.”
After medical school, as they are finishing their hospital-based training, junior doctors choose which branch of medicine they will specialise in.
“GPRA is raising the profile of rural practice so more medical students see it as a real option for them.”
Dr Bolton thanked the GPSN, especially its Rural Working Group, for organising the Farm Stay program. GPSN, which is supported by GPRA, runs activities and local clubs for medical students interested in general practice.
Dr Bolton also thanked the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Rural Workforce Agency Victoria for their generous support of Farmstay.
GPRA, Suzanne McKenzie
0400 145 224