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Community is key: Southland general practices attracting and keeping trainee doctors

Monday 17 October 2022

Southland general practices are proving popular training grounds for new doctors, as eight, second-year GP trainees are continuing to train and work in the region – three in Te Anau, three in Invercargill and one each in Winton and Gore.


Six GPEPs, who started their three-year General Practice Education Programme (GPEP) in Southland in 2022 are continuing to work and study here next year, while two more second-year trainee doctors are joining their ranks, shifting to Southland to continue their studies. 


A further three, first-year trainees will also begin training at Southland general practices in January 2023, building the primary care workforce in the region even more.


Dr Aisha Paulose, Lead Medical Educator-Southland for the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioner’s Regional Training Scheme and a Winton Medical Centre GP, says Southland has earned a very good reputation for general practitioner specialty training.


“The educators and teachers have put a lot of thought and effort in to ensuring GPEPs are supported professionally and feel welcomed and valued,” Dr Paulose says. “We provide a network in Southland for all the medical educators, teachers and GPEPs, and new fellows, with CME and social events … Covid permitting!”


“Within the general practice setting, the teachers and practice teams work really hard to make sure the GPEPs are well looked after. There is a lot of daily interaction and mentoring with the teachers who are the backbone for the training scheme, so trainees know they are not on their own and they can always ask for help.”


Dr Paulose is one of three RNZCGP lead medical educators in Southern, with Dr Keith Abbott supporting GPEPs in Central Otago and Dr Taatske Rijken in Dunedin.


The second year GPEPs work fairly independently, which helps create more capacity in general practices.


WellSouth primary health network helps to support the recruitment and retention of the GPEPs and the training programme is part of ensuring the primary healthcare services meet the needs of the community.


“This is a credit to the efforts of our medical educators and to general practice teams who work hard to make training, working, and living here a great experience,” says WellSouth CEO Andrew Swanson-Dobbs. “We are pleased to be part of solution. It’s all a part of supporting sustainability and building capacity and improving access to care for patients and whānau.”


And while this is promising progress, Andrew acknowledges there is more work to be done to help build a sustainable workforce for the future.


“There’s no silver bullet, but WellSouth is committed to working with practices and providers, health care workers, educators, agencies and to keep moving forward.”


Tash Austin – GPEP

Tash Austin is one of the GPEPs who started training in February 2022. After spending six months at Winton Medical Centre, Tash is currently working at Queen’s Park General Practice in Invercargill. 

Originally from Invercargill, Tash left at the age of 18 and did not expect to return.

“Once I had the opportunity to travel and see the world I realised there really is no place like home.”

She has chosen general practice as her speciality because it offers a variety of experiences and has a good work-life balance: “The opportunity to follow patients and their families throughout their medical journey. No other speciality allows you to do this as completely as in General Practice. I also found it very hard to narrow down which area of medicine I wanted to specialise in and GP gives you a taste of everything. I also have a young child and felt that General Practice offered more opportunities to be involved with family life and put down roots than training in a secondary care speciality at this time.”

Of choosing Southland for GP training Tash says: “The teachers and educators I have worked with in Southland have all been fantastic. It is a really great we have such solid support network locally for the training GPs and this will help keep trainees.”

The PHO can do to help, Tash suggests: “More can be done to attract young doctors to the region. More incentives need to be put in place, as in other undersubscribed areas, to ensure registrars stay through to Fellowship and beyond.” 

About GPEP


GPEP is a three-year full time equivalent (FTE) training programme. Registrars are eligible to apply for the programme after completing at least two years in hospital-based, prevocational training. 

After completing 36 months of training, GPEPs undertake a Fellowship assessment and become a RNZCGP Fellow - qualified to practice as a GP.


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