Blog

Training the next generation should be back on the agenda

Thursday August 6, 2020

Dr Sean Stevens, Chair, Royal Australian College of General Practitioners WA

Many areas of our society, and our profession in particular, have been dramatically affected by COVID-19. One area of our profession that has been dramatically affected, which is in the ‘highly important, but not urgent’ time management category is the training of our junior colleagues.

In the mad scramble to prepare primary care and the hospital system for the COVID-19 tsunami, the ongoing education of our medical students, residents and registrars has taken a back seat. It’s now time for this to be put back on the agenda.

Some of our teaching and training will need to be creative; utilising technology, COVID-safe principles and our junior colleagues’ workforce capabilities. In all of this, the quality and training needs of these colleagues must be paramount. Multiple bodies have produced some very useful guidelines on this, but they all take time and commitment from supervisors and trainers. In the frenetic pace of COVID preparedness, it’s important that we don’t neglect this.

There are also skills that many experienced GPs and other specialists are learning alongside their junior colleagues, most notably video and telephone consulting. This is an area that I am still coming to terms with and it may well be that our younger colleagues can teach us older doctors a thing or two.

We also need to acknowledge the changes to examinations, particularly clinical examinations. These are causing enormous stress to our colleagues at all levels of training.

Safety during exams is the prime concern, but we also need to make sure that any replacement exams are communicated in a timely manner and are fit for purpose. I know that a very talented team at the RACGP are working extremely hard to ensure that we are ready for the RACGP Fellowship exams later this year.

Now that we have come through the frenetic initial phase of COVID and are reaching the plateau of “the new normal”, I would encourage you all to look around and think: how can I improve the teaching for the next generation?

When I think of this question, I am reminded of the first sentence of the modern version of the Hippocratic Oath: I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow .

This principle has served us well for two and a half thousand years; it’s important that we don’t forget it in times like these.