The University of Newcastle, Australia

UON medical students in experienced rural GP hands

Friday, 31 October 2014

A pilot General Practitioner (GP) mentoring program delivered by the National Rural Faculty (NRF) in conjunction with the University of Newcastle has gained the support of some of the state's most well-respected rural doctors.

The program was established after the Royal Australia College of General Practitioners (RACGP) identified the need for a mentoring program for students in the early stages of their medical training.

The pilot program, which commenced in April 2014, aims to familiarise students with rural general practice and, in the long term, address the shortage of rural GPs by connecting medical students with experienced doctors.

Highly regarded rural GP and alumnus of the University of Newcastle, Dr Jen Hebblewhite, is participating in the program, which she considers a valuable way to contribute to medical education.

"I enjoy meeting new people as well as mentoring and teaching so the role, which combines all three really suits me," Dr Hebblewhite said.

"The program assigned a second year medical student to me with whom I share many interests and character traits, so my role is easy. I'm based in Armidale while Tania is based in Newcastle. We communicate via Skype during the evenings from our homes, making it very convenient for both of us."

University of Newcastle Rural Health Club (BREAATHHE) spokesperson James Pearlman said the pilot program currently involved 13 second year medical students and 13 rural mentors.

"While there are numerous events, resources and presentations on how to become a rural GP, there is nothing quite like having a chance to connect with someone who has already navigated the pathway," Mr Pearlman said.

"The Rural Connections Student Mentoring Program aims to provide medical students with access to advice and education that will support their journey towards a career in rural general practice."

Dean of the Joint Medical Program (JMP), Professor Ian Symonds said the JMP was committed to addressing the doctor shortage in rural and remote Australia.

"We actively recruit students interested in practising rural medicine and pursue opportunities to increase students' experience in this area.

"Our students based at the University of New England have the opportunity to experience rural medicine from Year 1 and it is good to be able to also offer this to our Newcastle- based students early in their studies," Professor Symonds said.

Dr Hebblewhite said the program was an achievable, safe and flexible way for rural doctors to contribute to general practice and medical education and was accredited as part of continuing professional development (CPD) for registration purposes.

"Even though the formal component is nearly over, I will continue to work with Tania via Skype, and I have invited her to our practice in Armidale for her GP placement," Dr Hebblewhite said.

The Rural Connections Student Mentoring pilot program will be assessed at the end of June with a view to potentially rolling it out nationally.

The Rural Connections Student Mentoring Program

The program runs for four months and students and mentors are encouraged to connect every three weeks for a minimum of six hours over the duration of the program. Connections can take place via phone, email and Skype.

The Rural Connections Student Mentoring Program was developed by the Royal Australia College of General Practitioners National Rural Faculty (RACGP NRF) who also administer the program. Members of the RACGP NRF, the Discipline of General Practice at the University of Newcastle, the General Practice Students Network (GPSN) and BREAATHHE, the University of Newcastle's Rural Health Club came together to form a partnership and Advisory Committee that oversees the pilot program.

About the Joint Medical Program

The Joint Medical Program (JMP) is a unique medical program that is jointly run by the University of Newcastle, University of New England, Hunter New England Local Health District and Central Coast Local Health District.

  • JMP Communications Team
  • Phone: 02 4921 6924

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