The new campaign aims to encourage medical students and young doctors to specialize in general medicine.
GPs are all too familiar with labor shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the challenge.
As the community faces a growing need for generalist care, amid rising rates of chronic disease and an aging population, too few medical graduates are choosing to specialize in general medicine.
If the trend continues, by 2030 there will be a projected shortfall of 9,298 full-time GPs – or 24.7% of the GP workforce – according to a Deloitte 2019 Report. The shortage is expected to be most extreme in urban areas, with a shortfall of 7,535 full-time GPs, or 31.7%.
To help stem the worrying decline, the RACGP has launched a new Become a general practitioner campaign to encourage medical students and young doctors to pursue careers in general medicine.
RACGP chair Dr Karen Price believes there is an increasingly urgent need for GPs as governments have not invested in Australia’s GP workforce ‘for decades “.
‘This [lack of funding] has led many communities to face severe shortages of GPs, especially in rural and remote areas,” she said.
“The government must act now and invest in our future GP workforce.”
Contributing to the shortage, Dr. Price said, is the fact that many medical students are often unaware of the benefits of a career in general medicine.
“We need campaigns like this to encourage more medical students to become GPs,” she said.
“Research shows that people come into medicine to ‘help people’, and GP is unique among specialties in enabling a person to do just that – GPs provide holistic care to patients throughout their lifespan. their lives, not just when they are sick, but to keep well.
This was certainly the case for Dr. Isabel Hanson.
A primary care academic and GP registrar, who practices in Sydney, she said the opportunity to work ‘in partnership with people’ to improve their health and wellbeing drew her to general practice.
‘Helping people heal and feel empowered in their bodies is one of the most satisfying parts of being a GP,’ said Dr Hanson, who was named 2021 RACGP NSW & ACT GP in training of the year.
Another challenge in boosting the workforce is the lack of exposure to general medicine while studying medicine.
Dr Nathan Lam, a part-time GP in rural South Australia and lecturer at Adelaide Medical School, encourages students to explore GP options during their studies after his own experiences revealed a “very pragmatic, creative and independent” type of medicine.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t spent a year in rural general medicine in Kapunda as a fifth-year medical student,” Dr Lam said.
“My GP mentors were very enthusiastic about getting me involved and participating in hands-on, on-the-job training.
“I went from a concerned medical student to someone with much more confidence in assessing and managing patients – and most importantly, engaging with patients in my own style.”
Dr Lam said it was ‘one of the best parts of general medicine’.
“It allows you to tailor the way you do medicine to your personality style and any special interests you have,” he said.
“You can do medicine your own way and at your own pace, while making time for whatever other passions in life you might have. The possibilities and opportunities are endless.
And with the pandemic having highlighted the “critical role” GPs play in their communities, Dr Price said the launch of the RACGP campaign could not be more timely.
“General medicine is our frontline defense against COVID-19 and the backbone of vaccine deployment, delivering half of all vaccines across the country to date,” she said.
“In addition to this, we are continuing the usual care for patients, including the management of increasing chronic illnesses and mental illnesses.
“I hope young people have been inspired by 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 GPs.”
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