College’s joint project to mentor returning GPs

The RACGP is teaming up with Primary Health Care in a pilot project to mentor GPs returning to work after a prolonged absence from medical practice.

The Helping Doctors Re-entry to Practice pilot aims to prepare Australian GPs who have been out of practice for an extended period with clinical and educational mentoring and support.

RACGP President Bastian Seidel said the level of need was not uniform and different practitioners might require quite different support structures.

“The longer someone has been away from practice, the greater the challenges that they will face in returning,” Dr Seidel said.

“The biggest hurdle would be coming up to speed with changes in medical knowledge and practice, and particularly so if they have had no involvement with the medical field at all while away.

“This is particularly the case with chronic disease, where guidelines, prescribing and other aspects of management do change.”

Depending on the individual circumstances, there would also be a degree of apprehension about returning to work and how they would cope, he added.

The majority of GPs who take part are likely to organise their own placement, and the RACGP will work with them to determine an individual education plan according to their needs.

For those who have difficulty finding suitable placements, the college has lined up with Primary Health Care, the major corporate operator of medical centres.

“Primary has a large group of general practice supervisors, geographically spread, who can work with the college and deliver educational programs that meet the returning GP’s individual needs,” the college said.

Primary will take part as both a selected entry practice and a potential referred practice placement, it said.

Currently in Australia there is no formal program to assist GPs re-entering practice.

The Medical Board of Australia has requirements for practice re-entry – the completion of 12 months’ CPD after a one-year break and a period of supervision for doctors returning after three years.

The 12-month pilot program is open to any practice that wants to ensure returning GPs are up-to-date with clinical skills and guidelines after an extended break.

Overseas experience suggested that two or three years’ absence from practice required some form of assessment and retraining, the college said.