Top tips for new doctors in Australia
The dos and don'ts of being a new GP
Doctor Stories
September 7, 2019

This post was first published in 2016.

When Dr. Mahalekshmi Selvanathan’s post about the dos and don’ts of being a new GP garnered a lot of attention in a Facebook group for new doctors, Medworld decided to catch up with her to find out what her top tips were.

“My advice is simple,” Dr. Maha says.

“Above all, love your job and don’t chase money. If you’re a good doctor, the money will come to you. By good doctor, I mean a humble, simple doctor with the aim to do what doctors do best... serve the community.”

Originally from Malaysia, Dr Maha studied in Russia and now works as a GP in rural New South Wales, Australia. You can find out more about her here.

Here’s a round-up of her top tips for new General Practitioners starting out in Australia:

1/ Join the RACGP

You’ll gain access to seminars and workshops; make sure you do item number 4001 – on Pregnancy advice and support. This will equip you to do antenatal shared care and pregnancy support, which is essential in any community GP practice.

2/ Undertake training in mental health

Around five out ten patients will have issues surrounding mental health. Screen all patients for signs of depression – you’ll be surprised.

In a city, it’s easier to refer cases to specialists; this is not so practical in a rural environment. Taking a course in mental health will help you confidently treat your patients when they need help.

3/ Be aware of drug seekers

Learn how to recognise drug seekers – they’ll know that you are new to the area and they’ll often arrive at end of your working day when you’re tired and ask for specific drugs. You’ll be surprised to what extent someone can fake a disease. Do not prescribe addictive drugs to patients you’ve only met a couple of times. Call the MediCare Helpline if you are ever in doubt over someone’s behaviour – they will likely have further information.

4/ Get the John Murtagh Patient Education Book

Remember that you’re a doctor, not God! You can’t know everything, so don’t be shy to tell your patient that you don’t know. Open the John Murtagh book (or use the desktop app) in front of your patient and involve them in the process, or tell them you’d like to confer with a mentor. Most patients are happy with your honesty – the worst general practitioners pretend that they know everything!

5/ Become friends with specialists

…especially those who work in your area. Tell them you’re new to the area and will be referring patients to them and potentially asking them for help.

6/ Call your patients

You’ll get a letter when one of your patients is admitted to hospital; give them a call and ask how they are.

7/ Get a Copy of the Therapeutic Guidelines and Australian Medicines Handbook

These will set you back a few dollars, but they are a brilliant investment – you can’t go wrong and they’re worth every cent!

8/ Family planning courses

Particularly if you’re a female GP, take a Family Planning course. You’ll use these skills on a daily basis; it’ll teach you how to deal with a wide variety of situations.

9/ Do a skin course

It’s a common problem in Australia – learn to identify moles, learn to cut out moles, keep learning, save lives!

10/ Do what you do best

It’s not hard to get patients – just do what you do best, be a good doctor. Laugh with your patients and connect with them – understand their pain and frustration. Remember you’re the first line of care and you can make a huge difference to someone.

Practice QUALITY over QUANTITY. Take your time with your patients and don’t speed up conversations. Some patients just want to talk; be natural, share and talk with them, there may be an underlying reason why they visit you often with small complaints.

Have goals and provide a service to your community BUT don’t forget to take care of yourself too!

Sit back and enjoy your job. There is no better blessing than loving what you do.

"There is no better blessing than loving what you do."

Article by
Dr Maha Selvanathan

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