Launch of the Fellowship Program for Rural Generalists

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The development has been hailed as a ‘key step’ that will provide more GPs with additional skills to rural and remote communities.

Rural GP Dr Sarah Lim uses her qualification to travel and work in rural towns across Australia. (Picture: provided)


When rural GP Dr Sarah Lim spoke to newsGP she was on a train in Brisbane.


The previous day she had traveled to northern Tasmania, while the previous week Dr Lim had found herself watching the sunset from a beach in Broome, Western Australia.


Previously based in Bendigo, Victoria, Dr Lim has since embarked on a journey that has seen her criss-cross the country and practice in some of Australia’s most remote areas.


She says having a qualification as a rural GP prepared her for the very different challenges she faced in a way that a standard GP training would not.


“I think being a rural GP has given me a more holistic approach to medicine and patients,” she said.


“It’s not that GPs don’t offer a holistic approach, but I also work in the ER and…having the perspective of both GP and hospital work is beneficial.”


It was this experience combined with a period of time when she was the only doctor in the regional Victorian town of Castlemaine – and therefore on 24-hour duty – that led her to recommend pursuing the new RACGP training. Rural General Scholarship (RG) qualification to anyone who feels capable of it.


Launching July 1, the college’s RG Fellowship will replace the Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice (FARGP) and is designed to provide more highly qualified specialist general practitioners with additional skills to rural and remote communities.


The revamped rural generalist training at the college includes enhanced training in emergency medicine and additional training in rural skills in areas such as anesthesia, midwifery and palliative care.


RACGP rural chair Dr Michael Clements said the RG scholarship is a ‘key step’ in efforts to address general practice workforce shortages in rural and remote parts of Australia .


“As the largest representative body of rural GPs, the RACGP is committed to driving the changes needed to ensure sustainable GP care in every community in the future,” he said.


‘The RACGP worked with the Rural Health Commissioner and the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine [ACRRM] have rural general medicine officially recognized as a specialized area of ​​practice.


“This change will remove barriers to training, help ensure that GPs with rural GP qualifications are properly assessed and compensated, and make them a more attractive career choice.”


Dr Clements says the RG Fellowship is designed to equip GPs with additional skills that rural communities need.


“As a rural GP myself, I know only too well what attracts people to rural GP,” he said.


“Local GPs are an integral part of rural communities across Australia. Rural communities depend on their GP for the majority of their health and well-being needs, especially when other specialized health services or hospital care are far away.


“This makes general practice in rural and remote settings both challenging and very rewarding. What I find most rewarding is the doctor-patient relationship and seeing the positive changes, like the patient successfully quitting smoking or taking the necessary steps to manage their chronic disease.


One of the services Dr Lim offered while working as a rural GP in country Victoria was antenatal care, which she said some patients would travel hundreds of miles to access.


“I found it very popular because not everyone wants to go to the hospital and wait for hours when they can just get an appointment with me,” she said.


“It worked well during COVID as visitors were not allowed [at hospitals]. So dads weren’t allowed to come and listen to their baby’s heartbeat, although they can easily do that in my clinic – that made a lot of dads really happy.


“I also did a lot of birth control work in my clinic and people would drive 2-4 hours just to get care that’s not available elsewhere.”

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A photo of the sunset in Broome taken by Dr Sarah Lim during her travels. (Picture: provided)


According to the RACGP, the training requirements for the RG fellowship are similar to those of the FARGP, with basic emergency medicine training and additional rural skills training updated to align with the National rural general course.


To facilitate the transition to the RG fellowship, these programs have been made available to FARGP GPs-in-training and GPs-in-practice beginning in early 2022. Current GPs-in-training who complete the FARGP can transition to the RG scholarship or may choose to complete the FARGP.


Dr Clements says he would ‘encourage anyone’ considering a career in general practice to consider practicing in a rural setting and getting an RG fellowship.


“It’s a career with unlimited opportunities. You can take it wherever you want, not only in terms of where you work, but also in terms of the medicine you practice, with so much variety and opportunities for specialization,” he said.


“I would also like to stress that Australia needs both GPs with extensive rural GP skills, as well as rural GPs working to their full potential in community general practice, providing holistic patient care by putting emphasis on preventive care and chronic disease management.


“Rural GPs and rural GPs often work together and have complementary skills that benefit rural communities.


“The RACGP trains all GPs to be campaign ready, so they can work anywhere in Australia. So if you’re considering a career in general medicine, take a look at our training choices.


Junior doctors can apply to undertake the RG Fellowship through the Australian General Practice Training Program (AGPT), with the next RACGP intake for applications starting 8 August.


Practicing general practitioners with the FRACGP and significant experience in rural general medicine and procedural or non-procedural skills can also apply for the scholarship via the recognition of prior learning and experience.



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