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COVID-19 Information for registrars, supervisors and training posts

Skilling doctors to close the gap

15th June 2018

James Cook University, in partnership with the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), is delivering a pioneering medical education initiative, in response to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander calls for doctors to be better trained to help close the gap.

Twenty-five registrars enrolled in JCU’s general practice training program have signed up to attend a two-day Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Masterclass, to be held in Cairns on 16–17 June. The masterclass aims to enhance the ability of JCU GP registrars to provide effective, culturally appropriate health care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients in Queensland.

Dr Peta-Ann Teague, Director of the JCU GP Training Program, said doctors in training often have limited experience in communicating effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, or working within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled Health Service’s model of care. 

“Geographical isolation, cultural considerations and the increased incidence of healthcare issues triggered by higher levels of disadvantage all pose a challenge to doctors working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health sector,” she said.

JCU Associate Professor, General Practice and Rural Medicine, Sophia Couzos, said the University had received numerous requests from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled health services to help improve the skills base of doctors working within their communities.

“They have asked for this, because they have seen that general practitioners may have the biomedical technical skills but have limited exposure to the unique model of care delivered by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled health sector.

“In essence, the skills gap is about how to deliver patient-centred care. It is about knowing how to work in a comprehensive, patient-centred primary health care environment; how to recognise social determinants of health and illness and work in partnership to address them; and how to deliver quality care for patients with acute and chronic disease.”

The masterclass, believed to be the first of its kind in Australia, will bring together guest speakers with a wealth of professional experience in a range of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health settings.

They include representatives from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Health Workers Association, Aboriginal health workers/practitioners, QAIHC project officers, doctors working in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Controlled health sector, a remote-area pharmacist, as well as JCU GP medical educators.

“This masterclass aims to ensure that registrars have the fundamentals to be able to make decisions about how to deliver the best care, including practical strategies that they can use to adapt to the different cultural context in which they are working, as well as differing levels of access to services and facilities, due to geographical isolation,” Dr Couzos said.

“Our goal is to help to foster a new generation of health professionals who have learnt to feel comfortable working in an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health environment and really understand how they can use their skills, in partnership with patients, and members and leaders of the local community, to deliver high quality care.”

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Townsville QLD 4811