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New training programs inspire next generation of rural GPs

6 March 2018

Dr Sarah Ayles was one of the first interns in the nation to take part in a new program aimed at recruiting more general practitioners in the bush.

The Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service’s Queensland Country Practice (QCP) is leading the way to inspire more doctors to become rural general practitioners (GPs).

QCP successfully received funding from the federal government to offer community-based placements to junior doctors in six rural areas across Queensland.

Doctor Sarah Ayles is one of the first interns to take part in the program. For seven weeks, Dr Ayles lived and worked in Goondiwindi, dividing her time between the local medical practice and the hospital.

It was an opportunity she said would help shape her career in medicine.

"I have really enjoyed it. The doctors were a really supportive group and the community health providers were great," she said.

"It was a wonderful experience to see what it is like to be a GP, all the while being in a supported environment."

Dr Ayles said the placement also involved spending time with a variety of other health providers in Goondiwindi including allied health, physiotherapy, optometry and community health.

Ordinarily, interns experience life as a rural GP later in their career. This new program however introduces the experience earlier in their career paths.

Queensland Rural Medical Services Executive Director Dr Hwee Sin Chong said this early exposure could influence the career paths of junior doctors and address the nation-wide problem of recruiting suitably qualified medical officers in rural and remote areas.

"The program is funded by the Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund and is aimed at whetting the appetite of our post-graduate, year 1 interns," Dr Chong said.

"Referred to as ‘iDocs’, these junior doctors are exposed to working and living in a rural community during the early stages of their careers with the hope that the experience will stimulate an interest in rural general practice as a career path.

"Whilst on rotation, doctors also have access to a series of online modules, specifically developed by the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine for junior doctors, so they are supported to practise safely and competently."

Another four interns are scheduled to be rotated through Goondiwindi this year as part of the program.

Last updated: 8 March 2018