President’s Blog: Civility among specialties - add it to your general practice | AMA (WA)


President’s Blog: Civility among specialties – add it to your general practice

Friday February 23, 2024

Dr Michael Page, AMA (WA) President

This week, I attended a workshop hosted by the RACGP with a focus on attracting medical students and DITs to train in general practice. It’s no secret that interest in GP training needs to be significantly boosted if our primary care workforce is to keep up with the increasing number, age and complexity of patients. The alternative is lower-quality care in the community, worse health outcomes and even greater pressure on the hospital system.

It was pleasing to hear some really positive ideas, many of which revolved around increasing and improving GP placement experiences for students and DITs, to demystify and familiarise would-be trainees with the specialty. If they can have more first-hand exposure, they will see what a wonderful, varied and challenging career it can be, and how much difference they can make in the lives of their patients. 

There was also some discussion around the need to improve the regard in which GP is held. One of our members, Intern Dr Phoebe Blaxill, delivered a very thoughtful address to the attendees regarding her own intentions to train in GP. She described her disappointment at hearing negative, ill-informed, offhand remarks on the wards relating to GP, and to students and DITs who express interest in training in GP. 

We have all heard, and many of us have probably been guilty of making, negative remarks about one another’s specialties. Some of them are relatively harmless – for instance, even if male orthopaedic surgeons were capable of understanding jokes made at their expense, their ample muscles are covered by thick skin. There is no hard-and-fast rule about what types of generalisations are valid, funny, or empathetic, and which are offensive; but if a target group feels that a particular characterisation is unhelpful or demeaning, it has clearly crossed a line. (The ophthalmologist and comedian, Dr Will Flannery, reads the room well – Google “Dr Glaucomflecken” if you are unfamiliar.) 

 A few years ago there was a discourse on restoring civility in medicine, which had eroded over several decades. This impetus seems to have been lost, perhaps with the intervention of a pandemic. We must think about the language we use and the assumptions we make when we stereotype our colleagues. What we say about one another can ripple across the system, causing toxicity and destroying trust. We are all on the same team, and we all deserve the same respect. 



Follow me on Facebook:

Follow me on Twitter: