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JCU delivers vital boost to rural GP workforce

1 February 2022

JCU GP Training welcomes 87 new registrars to the program this week to help address the critical shortage of general practitioners in Queensland’s regional, rural and remote communities.

Through Rural Training Enhancement initiatives, JCU has prioritised new placements to fill GP shortages in towns such as Bowen, Sarina, Charters Towers, Cloncurry, Monto and Palm Island. The new additions bring the total cohort training with JCU in 2022 to 544 registrars. 

JCU GP Training Director, Associate Professor Dr Lawrie McArthur said the new registrars will play an important role in frontline healthcare across the Cape York, Western, Coastal, Central and Southwestern regions of Queensland.

“JCU GP training contributes greatly to the health care needs of our regional, rural, and remote communities,” Dr McArthur said. “These new doctors are fully qualified and bring to these communities their interests, specialised medical skills, and often their families.”

“We have a technologically enabled, regionally distributed GP training model, that aligns with the Queensland Health and Hospital Services districts. This means that we have locally based medical education teams in 11 rural training nodes across Queensland, who are connected and in-tune with the needs of each community.”

The new registrars commence training with a two-day workshop which has been moved online due to the impact of COVID-19 in the region. The registrars will be employed across hospitals, general practices, primary health care centres and Aboriginal Controlled Community health centres.

JCU GP Training Principal Medical Educator Dr Paula Heggarty has prepared the introductory workshop. Key topics over the two days will include communication skills and the patient-doctor relationship, clinical reasoning and managing selfcare through the challenges of the pandemic. 

“JCU is adapting our education program to provide resources for doctors in their practices to ensure they’re available to provide care where it is needed - in the community. This includes training in use of telehealth consultations, connectivity to others to find updated medical information and Zoom meetings for peer group training,” Dr Heggarty said.

“The year ahead is exciting for these new doctors who will be independent GPs in two years,” Dr Heggarty says “They face significant challenges during a global pandemic. We know they will be committed to their practices and patients and very enthusiastic about their new careers.”

New registrar, Dr Georgia Foley, will be training to be a GP at The Doctor House in Yungaburra on the Atherton Tablelands. It’s a place that holds fond memories for Dr Foley, who undertook rural placement at the practice as a JCU Medicine student.

“The doctor-patient relationship and continuity of care were the stand-out aspects of the experience,” Dr Foley said. “You see the doctors here really getting out into the community and it seems like a really good lifestyle. I remember thinking what a lovely community it was and that I could really have a career here.”

Dr Foley was set on continuing the pathway through JCU GP training because of the strong alignment with rural and remote medicine and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

“I grew up in a small rural town on the far south coast of New South Wales. I was very aware of the difficulty accessing a good GP and the burden of having to travel for a specialist,” Dr Foley says. “The GP is often the first contact patients have with healthcare and they rely on and trust their GP.

“Following JCU GP training, I hope to be able to contribute to the community further through advanced training in obstetrics to be able to provide antenatal care to women and families in the region,” Dr Foley said.

JCU GP Training has produced over 700 GP graduates since the program commenced in 2016, with almost two-thirds staying in the region following fellowship.

In 2023, the pathway to becoming a GP will move to college-led training through the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM).

“Change is part of life and next year there will be a transition to a nationally consistent college-led training model. JCU will play a role in this transition while continuing to be Australia’s most successful university in delivering a pipeline of medical training from high school to specialist doctor,” Dr McArthur said

JCU Stories
JCU Stories

James Cook University’s GP training program supports registrars to live, learn and work alongside inspirational educators, supervisors and mentors in diverse regional, rural and remote locations across Queensland.

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Why train with JCU

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