What to do if you run into problems

Like any job, general practice training has its ups and downs, but for the vast majority of GP trainees, their training placements and experiences are positive and rewarding.

Most difficulties with workplaces and training stem from lack of awareness, assumptions or misinterpretations by the registrar or the training practice – or both – rather than intentional acts.

Open, honest and early communication is the key to solving most of the issues faced by registrars!

Don’t delay if you have questions or concerns – it’s better to raise these with your supervisor or practice manager as early as possible and in a spirit of collaboration, as this can quickly resolve many issues.

Occasionally, registrars find themselves in situations where they are unhappy about some aspect of their training.

This may include practice placement, relocation or educational issues; interpersonal problems; or disputes about remuneration or other employment conditions.

Many registrars can find it challenging to raise these matters with a supervisor, training practice or even their GP speciality training College due to concerns about escalating conflict and power imbalance issues.

Try not to get too worried by this, as there are a range of options and supports available should you be facing any of these difficulties. You are not alone!

Who to talk to for support

In general, most problems can be resolved locally with the training practice or relevant College, particularly if dealt with early.

Remember that avoidance or “trying to put up with it” rarely resolves a situation and more often just makes things worse.

The most appropriate person to talk to depends on what the problem is and how you want to go about dealing with it.

Your Registrar Liaison Officer (RLO) is often your best option as they provide local support and advice – no matter what the problem. RLOs are registrars too, and part of their role is to provide peer support to you.

In some circumstances, the RLO can act on behalf of a registrar if the registrar feels unable to confront an issue themselves.

Your GP specialty training College will also have a staff member as a point of contact for registrars, who can assist or direct you to other staff or medical educators in the organisation who can provide advice.

GPRA are available to talk about any problems or difficulties you may encounter with your training. Contact our registrar enquiries services. All matters are treated confidentially.

We will work with you to understand your issues and provide suggestions on how to approach a difficult situation or help solve larger problems. We can speak directly with the College to clarify any misunderstandings and can provide assistance with dispute resolution.

Seeking a resolution

Before having a discussion:

  • Try to understand the causes of the situation. If it is an issue with your work conditions or remuneration, check your employment agreement, the National Terms and Conditions for the Employment of Registrars (NTCER) and any relevant workplace policies at your practice.
  • Contact GPRA if you need clarification on any issues within the NTCER.
  • If it is a training matter, review your relevant College’s training handbook and policies and any relevant ACRRM/RACGP policies.
  • Use this information to try and objectively assess the situation and the role you may have played in the issue.
  • In the event of a dispute, ensure you document all relevant information.
  • Keep a record of times and dates of events, make notes of any verbal advice you are given, retain copies of any correspondence and try to stick to factual occurrences.
  • Speaking with the other party (e.g. supervisor or practice manager or owner) is the preferred strategy when attempting to resolve the situation.
  • Before doing so, plan and prepare.

Tips for having a productive discussion:

  • Ensure some time is set aside in a neutral location to have this discussion.
  • Respect and active listening are critical.
  • Focus on the problem and on finding a solution, not the people involved.
  • Present your point of view using “I think” or “I feel” statements.
  • Seek to understand the other party’s viewpoints.
  • Acknowledge and record any areas of agreement.

Need to take it further?

If you are unable to resolve a situation by speaking with the other party, you may need to escalate the matter.

Each GP specialty training College has an appeals policy and process. If you cannot find yours or need support with this process, contact your RLO.

Should that not resolve the issue, there is a further appeal process that involves specially appointed appeals committees, including external reviewers, at each medical college (ACRRM and RACGP). These appeals are a last resort when all else has failed.

GPRA offers assistance and advice during these processes. We have been involved in a range of registrar appeals, so contact us if you find yourself in this situation.

Often, early intervention and discussion results in better outcomes for all parties, so get in touch with us as soon as you realise.

Legal advice might also be required in very difficult and complex situations.

While GPRA does not have the resources to provide legal support or representation, your medical defence organisation and/or the AMA (if you are a member) may be able to assist.

Sometimes issues arise that suggest the possibility of a systemic problem; for example, a policy or situation that is disadvantaging a particular group of registrars.

GPRA can collaborate with or lobby relevant stakeholders to review and change their policies. We have been involved in and advocated on a range of issues with general practice training in Australia. This has often resulted in positive change for all registrars.

Lastly, take care of yourself 

Any dispute or conflict can be very stressful and, on top of the pressure and challenges of just
being a GP registrar, this may lead to negative impacts on both your professional and personal life.

In these circumstances, it is vital that you pay attention to your own wellbeing and be proactive in seeking personal and professional support to help you deal with stress.