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Meet Trish Cuthbert, our Practice Manager Liaison Officer

Dr Jaimie Hurley (featured image)

It’s a mighty task to be the support person for all the practice managers in GPTQ’s training region but one Trish Cuthbert is happy to take on.

“It’s actually a privilege and an honour to be able to train our upcoming doctors. Most of our registrars come for a year and the transformation they make in that time is like watching a baby grow up. When you see them leave and how much they’ve grown in 12 months, it’s like a proud parent moment.”

The practice manager liaison officer role

Trish is the practice manager at Granite Belt Medical Services in Stanthorpe, one of the training practices in our region. Last year, she took on the liaison officer role, which means she’s the contact for other practice managers when they have issues they would like to discuss.

“I mainly provide support over the telephone. Most of the questions I get are registrar related, whether it’s about contract and pay or things that come up that practice managers aren’t sure about. For example, if a registrar is only part-time, what sort of sick, annual or study leave are they entitled to?” she says.

She also plays a pastoral role, both with her own registrars and those she indirectly oversees through the practice managers.

“A practice manager is like the mum. We make sure the registrar is successful in what they’re doing. If we notice anything that needs to be looked at in a clinical sense, then we pass that on to the supervisor. If it’s something to do with day-to-day running, then we usually take that on ourselves.”

Trish finds this part of her job to be the most rewarding. The most common problem that arises is with registrars trying to adjust to general practice life.

“A lot of the time I talk to the practice manager about how we can support the registrar in making their transition from the hospital to the general practice environment. It’s not easy as you’re transferring from a public system where patients will always come through the door, no matter how long you spend with them, to a private system where your patients are your bread and butter,” she says. “You have to take that into account when you’re treating people so I can help them from that perspective.”

Finding her way to general practice

Trish’s background is varied but her work has always featured a medical component.

“I worked in pharmacy before I came to general practice on the business side of things as I have a business degree. But I’m also a qualified lab technician so I was able to work in the dispensary as well.”

She moved to general practice in 2007 as a practice manager as ‘it was just time for change’. She hasn’t looked back since.

“I love the challenges, I love the patients, I love working closely with the staff. When you work in general practice, your mind’s forever like a gear stick as you’re constantly changing direction,” she says. “One minute you’re helping on reception, the next you’re pulled out the back to help with an emergency and the next you’re doing book work. It’s pretty full on.”

The most challenging part of her role as a practice manager is looking after staff.

“When you’ve got a large number of staff, everybody has different ideas and perspectives. You get a lot of mixed personalities under one roof so ensuring your staff are happy can be difficult. But I like to make it priority,” she says.

Growing up

Trish was born in Longreach where her dad was a police officer. Her family moved around due to his job when she was younger. Her migration habit continued when she met her husband. As a bank manager, he was constantly transferring between different branches. They finally ended up in Stanthorpe and enjoyed the lifestyle so much that they decided to stay. They’ve lived there for the past 22 years.

Advice for practice managers

Trish believes all practice managers should value and embrace the part they play in teaching the next generation of GPs but shouldn’t shy away from seeking support when they need it. “I encourage practice managers to get in touch if there’s something that they’re unsure about. I don’t profess to know everything but anything I don’t, I will try and find out or point them in the right direction.”