Dr Sam Petersen is a GP registrar based at Chinchilla Medical Practice in rural Queensland and is also GPTQ’s Rural Registrar Liaison Officer (RLO).
The role of Registrar Liaison Officer is multifaceted and includes advocating for registrars, both to GPTQ and at a national level. An RLO provides information about registrars’ needs back to the organisation, directs them to resources and provides opportunities to enhance medical education skills.
“My particular interest is fellow registrars doing rural medicine,” says Sam. “There are some subtle differences between rural and metro GPs, as can be expected. I think it’s valuable to have someone specifically represent rural registrars.”
RLOs need to be informed about the issues that affect registrars and advocate back to GPTQ for the issues that are important. RLOs also listen and provide one-to-one support for registrars – their obligation is to the registrar. This affords registrars a safe place to talk about important issues and keeps the lines of communication open.
“One of the main issues for rural GPs is work-life balance,” says Sam. “A lot of people go into general practice with the expectation of having their weekends off and working normal business hours. In the rural community, that’s not always the case and it can become quite demanding being a rural GP and working long hours.”
“Registrars are used to working in an environment where there are multiple other doctors at the same level, with similar experiences,” he says. “All of a sudden you find yourself in an environment where you might not have any other registrars at your same level or facing the same issues. These are the issues a rural RLO needs to address.”
GPTQ conducts education programs via video link so that rural registrars can have time with each other. “There are also educational opportunities where everyone travels to the same location and spends time together. Those catch-ups during morning tea and lunch are invaluable,” says Sam.
“Conferences are also useful get-togethers. My role is in facilitating those opportunities, make sure they are running smoothly, and ensuring we improve the processes that are already there.”
Sam says he looks forward to having a more active role as an RLO and addressing some of the rural-specific concerns that rural registrars may have.
“I am excited and nervous about that,” says Sam. “I am not sure that I have mastered a work-life balance myself.” What’s important, he says, is naming the issue and identifying it as an issue. “It’s tough because there is a rural workforce shortage and because there is a need, you just jump in.”
As a full-time GP both at Chinchilla Medical Practice and Chinchilla Hospital, as well as being on call for obstetrics and emergency, Sam is learning to practice what he preaches. “With our new baby, it’s going to be more of a challenge!”