The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has launched a new campaign to boost the general practice workforce.
Become A GP aims to inspire medical students and junior doctors to choose to specialise in general practice and enjoy a rewarding and varied career as a GP.
RACGP President Dr Karen Price said the campaign was timely.
“The pandemic has highlighted the critical role GPs play in our communities,” she said.
“General practice is our frontline defence against COVID-19 and the backbone of the vaccine rollout, delivering half of all vaccines across the nation to date. On top of this we’re continuing usual care for patients, including managing rising chronic conditions and mental illness.
“Unfortunately for decades governments have neglected to invest in Australia’s general practice workforce, and this has led to many communities facing severe shortages of GPs, particularly rural and remote areas. The Government needs to act now and invest in our future GP workforce.”
Not enough medical graduates are choosing to enter specialist GP training to meet the increasing need for care. A 2019 report by Deloitte found a projected shortfall of 9,298 full-time GPs or 24.7% of the GP workforce by 2030. The shortage is forecast to be most extreme in urban areas at 7,535 full-time GPs or 31.7% by 2030.
The RACGP President said more needed to be done to promote the benefits of general practice to those making career decisions.
“We need campaigns like this to encourage more medical students to become a GP. Medical students often simply aren’t aware of the rewards of a career in general practice.
“Research shows people get into medicine to ‘help people’, and general practice is unique among specialties in allowing a person to do just that – GPs provide holistic care to patients throughout their lives, not just when they’re sick but to keep them well.
“I’m hopeful that young people will have been inspired seeing GPs on the frontline throughout the pandemic, protecting and caring for their communities, and that this will encourage more people to choose to become a GP.”
GP registrar and primary care academic Isabel Hanson, who practices in Sydney, said she was attracted to general practice because of the opportunity to work closely with people.
“I chose general practice because I love working in partnership with people to improve their health and wellbeing,” she said.
“Supporting people to heal and feel empowered in their bodies is one of the most satisfying parts of being a GP.”
Adelaide Medical School lecturer and young GP Dr Nathan Lam, who practices part-time in Streaky Bay in rural South Australia, urged students to explore electives in general practice during medical school.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t spent a year in rural general practice in Kapunda as a fifth-year medical student,” he said.
“What I experienced in general practice opened my eyes. I saw a type of medicine that was very pragmatic, creative, and independent.
“My GP mentors were very enthusiastic to have me involved and be hands-on with practical on-the-job training. I went from an apprehensive medical student to someone with far more confidence assessing and managing patients – and importantly, engaging with patients in my own style.
“To me, that’s one of the best parts of general practice. It allows you to tailor the way you do medicine to your personality style and whatever special interest you have. You can do medicine in your own way and at your own pace, whilst carving out time for any other passions in life that you may have. The possibilities and opportunities are endless.”