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A training practice

24 January 2022

A firm believer in the hands-on approach to teaching JCU GP registrars, Gympie’s Dr John Manton took up an opportunity almost 10 years ago to build a new clinic that could incorporate a specially designed training facility for registrars.

“Often, the standard GP clinic is just a converted three-bedroom house, but our practice kept growing so the thought was to construct a purpose-built GP clinic to start off with. Then we started having more and more GPs at the clinic who had a natural kind of educational bent, four of whom including myself are registrar supervisors with the JCU GP Training program. So we were also very much interested in designing a clinic to better suit registrar training needs. We now have a training wing with very close access to both myself and Dr Rashida Malek as principal supervisors and medical educators, along with Dr John Byrnes and Dr Mihaela Negru-Radu.

“In the training wing we also have a dedicated teaching area with video, computers, a whiteboard and everything else you might need. Our staff also have very clear instructions not to disturb us when we are in the training room, as one of the most difficult things is when your teaching time or supervision is interrupted by the unexpected. Although the nature of general practice means that whatever walks through the door is unpredictable, it helps to have a separate training room to make the teaching side of things a bit more protected.”

According to Dr Manton, however, it is the ‘open door’ approach to training that really makes a difference. “My chief virtue is that I make myself available for people to talk to. My belief is that we should learn from the patient, and that the patient is your main teacher. Another teaching habit of mine, when I’m doing particularly procedural things, is to ensure to schedule a registrar to do it with me.”

Dr Rashida Malek, also a JCU GP supervisor at the Centre, shares a similar passion for educating the next generation of doctors.

“I joined Excelsior in 2011 and Dr Manton mentored me to take on a more formal teaching role. Back in India when I was working as a gynaecologist and obstetrician, I was always teaching registrars, medical students and nurses. My father was also a doctor and always very dedicated to medical teaching and I used to travel with him as a young child when he would go to clinics at the villages. That passion for sharing your knowledge is just something that’s stayed with me. What I’ve come to really value about the teaching role is that it’s not just about passing on knowledge, but also nurturing junior doctors’ confidence and helping them to develop the personal attributes that are needed for the profession. Also, just giving hope and reassurance when their exams are coming up can make a huge difference to their success. I would say that of my time spent with registrars that half of my time is spent teaching and the other half is spent mentoring and encouraging their own self-reflection.”

Dr Malek similarly values a hands-on, immediate approach to teaching. “Here at Excelsior we all follow a very hands-on approach in that we teach registrars when the patient is right there, which is very different to just teaching from books. As soon as the registrar asks for our help, we exit our rooms and go see them straight away while the patient is in there with them.”

The registrar training experience at Excelsior further benefits both from being such a busy clinic and having a wide catchment area of patients. “We have 13 or 14 doctors and 10 consulting rooms and usually there are four or five registers here at a time which is a great experience for them as it means they are not isolated and can support each other,” says Dr Malek. “And because Gympie covers such a large regional catchment, registrars will get to see a real variety of patients with some interesting pathology. Some of our patients are farmers who often might see doctors only when there is something really wrong. We’ve also got a large number of residents who are elderly and we give medical care to four or five nursing homes to which registrars are exposed. Now we have a lot of young families moving into the area, especially since COVID started to break out in the cities, so we do a lot of paediatrics and antenatal care. There are also a lot of young people presenting with musculoskeletal injuries from all the different sports that are played around here.”

Dr Mihaela Negru-Radu is relatively new to the JCU GP supervisor team at Excelsior.

A Romanian-trained consultant paediatrician before moving to Australia and continuing her work in Brisbane, Dr Negru-Radu undertook GP training in Australia in 2010 and came to Gympie to undertake her registrar training. “Already being a paediatrician, I could have applied for recognition of prior learning for my GP training but I wanted to do it from scratch and work my way through it just like as a junior registrar would do. It was a great way to do it because now when I’m teaching registrars, I know exactly where they are in their program and what knowledge gaps they might have.”

Dr Negru-Radu’s thirst for continually expanding her knowledge is well-known at Excelsior and makes for a great asset to the teaching team. “I’ve always been very passionate about what I do because without passion, there is no success. My hand is always up to do more training. If I’m not at conferences then I am either attending webinars or reading medical journals. I’ve actually accrued about 1500 Continuing Professional Development points this year already even though I only need 130 CPD points until the end of next year.”

In addition to providing an exemplary GP training experience, the lifestyle and career development benefits of staying on in the Gympie area as a GP are outstanding. “While having registrars is great, we’d also really like the option of having somebody who’s a trainee with the possibility that they are going to stay,” says Dr Manton. “Gympie’s population growth in the last few years has just been phenomenal and as a result, there is a strong need for more doctors. We’ve now got a four-lane highway that takes you to Brisbane in two hours and we’re just 45 minutes away from Noosa and the Sunshine Coast. We’ve got lots of beautiful places to explore nearby like Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach plus we’ve still got that country town feel without being too far from anywhere. And my commute to work takes just two minutes!”

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JCU Stories

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