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By Dr Bruce Willett
Registrars bring a fresh and exciting perspective to your general practice. Their enthusiasm and quest for knowledge has many advantages. But enticing the best registrars to apply – and then picking the right one for your practice – can be tricky. In this article, I offer some tips on how to navigate the application and selection process.

Differentiate your practice from others

These days, many practices offer increased pay to attract registrars. But my advice is not to routinely go above the NTCER terms. Instead, try to stand out from the crowd by offering varied educational services or spruik the features unique to your practice. Are you known for your camaraderie amongst staff? Are you well-appointed or well-equipped in billing services? Leaving it all to pay is not always the best way to go.

Background reconnaissance

Speak to other supervisors about how they guide and work with registrars. What are their interview secrets? How does the practice support the registrar? Speak to registrars about how they choose a practice, what works best for them, what sort of learning is most effective?

Make sure you cover all bases during the interview

The registrar will be nervous at the start of their interview. A good way to help them settle is to start by talking about your practice environment.

Describe what your practice is like, from its ethos to practical things such as how it works, what your patient demographics are and even what the billing is like.

Cover the education side of things with relation to face-to-face teaching and explain how that occurs, by whom and when. Make it clear that the supervision side is quite separate. Define how, when and who will do this. They need to know who to go to for help if they get into trouble.

Touch upon other important topics such as pay, hours and rooms. Don’t forget to tell the registrar about any special things your practice does that may impact on their experience. Do you have any current research projects? Can the registrars get involved in teaching med students?

Finding out if the registrar has the right GP skills

Broadly speaking, a successful GP is an effective communicator who quickly establishes rapport with their patients. There’s the technical side of things too, as they possess the requisite clinical skills to practise as a doctor.

During the interview process, how can you judge whether the registrar has all of these skills?
To find out how well they communicate and establish rapport, I like to ask them questions designed to elicit longer responses. Things like: what jobs did you do before medicine, do you have any special medical interests and what do you want to be doing in five years? The answers will give you a better understanding of the registrar, where they’ve been and importantly, where they want to go.

Unfortunately, it’s a little bit harder to judge their technical ability. The only way you can get a sense of this is by reading their CV. Often this can be difficult, especially when the registrar has come straight from the hospital environment and has limited other experience.

Do they have a passion for the job and your practice?

Enthusiasm is an attractive quality in a candidate. If they’ve taken the time to research your practice and express how keen they are to share their clinical interests, you’re on to a good thing. If they ask you about the particular skillset of the supervisors and follow up with questions about the educational opportunities on offer, these are all good signs too.

The pay red flag

Pay is often a big factor in securing employment in any field and it’s no different in general practice. It’s definitely something that should be discussed during the interview and it’s best that the supervisor brings this up. If the registrar broaches the subject early on and you get the feeling that’s the only thing they’re enthusiastic talking about, I see that as a red flag.

You should get back to all applicants regardless of success

The most important thing you can do after you’ve made your decision is to get back to all applicants, whether they were successful or not. Try to do this in a timely fashion so they’re not kept hanging. It’s all common sense but it’s easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle of everyday work commitments.

Email Super News with your experiences, tips and best practices when looking for registrars to join your practice.