President message, Feb 2019

GPRA's President discusses what he'd like to achieve in 2019

ABOVE:Dr Sama Balasubramanian (left) and GPRA CEO Andrew Gosbell (right) meet with Mr Tony Zappia MP (centre) to discuss general practice training.

Dr Sama Balasubramanian was elected as the President of GPRA late-2018 and commenced his term as President 1 January 2019. Here, he discusses the key issues in the future.

By Dr Sama Balasubramanian

In 2019, alliance-building will be a key focus.

Whilst the different players in the general practice space may have varying foci and methods, the missions we share are common: to foster a healthy, sustainable training experience for registrars and supervisors alike; to focus on the vitally important mentor-mentee partnership; engender a culture of support for rural and remote practitioners; to advocate for the health of the profession and it's importance at a political level; to continually strive to improve registrar wellbeing, the training experience and educational outcomes.

We will have regular contact with organisations such as ACRRM, RACGP, GPSA, regional training organisations, department of health (state and federal), AMA, primary health networks and others. Only as a united force can we positively impact the experience and image of General Practice.

Building an equitable training experience is essential. Our primary focus will be working on and improving the training conditions for registrars, particularly through our negotiations on the NTCER and changing this negotiation process.

This includes improving access to maternity leave and study leave, negotiating for fair remuneration, ensuring equity in remunerative calculations, facilitating representation and advocacy with trainees in all clinical settings.

Member feedback is vital to this process occurring, and I and the team at GPRA will be working to engage with you to ensure that your input matters.

We already receive vital input and work from the registrar representatives on the GPRA Advisory Council, and need to supplement their hard work with member input on vital issues such as the NTCER and college transition. Please email myself and the team at GPRA for anything GP or training related.

GPRA is only as strong as our members, and thus we look to all of us as driving forces to shape the organisation and the future of General Practice. We all have something to contribute, and your voice will be heard. I really look forward to working and advocating for you.

Upcoming challenges for GP training and GP registrars

There are several key challenges in the near future that need to be managed well to ensure that registrars achieve equity, wellbeing, and high-level training outcomes.

The philosophical elements underlying the devaluing of general practice are tangible to registrars. Addressing the power imbalance in contract negotiations, discussions around appropriate remuneration, workplace conditions and protections on par with fellow trainees is key to ensure general practice is attractive, fulfilling, and a rewarding experience. We are always looking for more registrar feedback in this space and will work for you and with you to make this happen.

Navigating the landscape of General Practice training during the transition to the colleges will be important. Managing uncertainty is an art we specialise in, but managing this within the context of our own training and early careers is challenging.

There are key elements in training policy implementation that require our feedback, including discussions around maternity leave and study leave. There is also the need for proactive advocacy around the NTCER and an equitable training experience. I would encourage all registrars to be involved with GPRA, seek out roles in education/training, and keep providing feedback to us and the colleges. The system needs to centre around registrars.

Developing a healthy understanding of the role of rural generalism within the health system and the need for more support in rural relocation is vital. Registrars must be appropriately informed about these changes and their input heard on the process transforming the face of rural generalism in Australia.

There are increasing social and legal factors impacting trainees across the board, particularly so for those on the independent pathway in rural and regional areas.

We need to organise our system to provide the highest levels of support and advocacy for those that need it the most. In order to do this, effective representation from this group of registrars is vital. We want feedback from this cohort and others on how to make this happen.

How I became involved with GPRA

I originally applied for the role of Registrar Liaison Officer with GP Synergy due to a passion for registrar wellbeing and working conditions, thus adopting a position on the GPRA Advisory Council.

Maintaining this position for over two years, I came to understand the value of an independent member-drive organisation for registrars.

Registrars are the lifeblood and part of the metamorphosis of General Practice training over time. I am passionate about registrar wellbeing and I am looking to drive constructive dialogue at a systems level, so all registrars can have a fair go and have appropriate representation in training, educational, administrative and wellbeing matters.

Why all GP Registrars should get involved with GPRA

Involvement in one's advocacy and representative organisation is vital to driving ongoing dialogue regarding GP training, and thus has provided me a privileged position to channel registrar feedback and lobby stakeholder organisations. This includes the colleges, training providers, as well as state and federal governments.

I believe that trainee input is vital to the sustainability, attractiveness and value of General Practice overall. You cannot drive progress without end user feedback.

Registrars comprise both the end user and end result of General Practice training in Australia, and I have seen outcomes achieved via GPRA.

GPRA provides a terrific conduit for registrars' input to be heard, and fantastic opportunities for registrars to be involved in shaping the future education and administrative aspects of the general practice landscape.

There are fantastic resources such as the exam books, webinars, and plenty of information on employment negotiation and navigating placement enquiries. We also directly address your enquiries and advocate for you.

Remember, GPRA is your voice and your organisation.

Advice for GP Registrars starting their training in 2019...

If you're new to GP training, remember to value yourselves. You are a colleague, not "just" a trainee. Learn about contract negotiation. Use our resources. Tell us what works and what doesn't. Empower yourselves.

Give us your feedback. Let's work together to keep improving general practice training.

Watch Dr Sama Balasubramanian shares his thoughts on general practice, the challenges and the joys.

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The NTCER covers the terms and conditions of GP Registrars' employment.