What am I doing? A reflection of huge regrets and adventures.
I sit here in my third week as a medical educator (ME) with ten things open on my desktop, staring into GPRime like it’s going to give me all the answers. I have decided to reflect on what got me here, introduce myself to you in my role as CTV ME for Hunter, Manning Central Coast, and to warn my CTV loving colleagues in the CTV ME working group.
I grew up around Newcastle and Lake Macquarie. We do not wander too far from the lake, so I found myself at The University of Newcastle studying Biomedical Science. After a few months of caffeine-fuelled soul searching while doing Honours in Neurochemistry, I realised that I was not creative or intelligent enough for a career in the sciences. Well, that’s what the rats were saying, I feel they may have had ulterior motives to dent my confidence!
I went to medical school at ANU in Canberra, moved away from home, had the time of my life, and came straight home. I loved studying in Canberra, but my skin was drying out, being too far from the lake. I always thought I was going to be a neurologist, until I spent a summer elective working in the Neurology Department at RPAH. I spent the next twelve months wanting to be whatever I was studying that week, and so the general practice seed was planted. I spent my JMO years in the Hunter New England health network. I remember the day I decided to do general practice training, it was my second week as an intern and my first run of nights!
When I had that goal and direction, I found my life plans and enjoyment in practising medicine really started to grow. I did my GP training in the Newcastle area and still work at my GPT3 practice at Elermore Vale with a great bunch of people. Since I sat my exams in 2013, I have worked full time at the coal face, got married to an amazing lady, had two fantastic kids, written a children’s book (my true talent), bought a house, survived a Labrador puppy and things were going well, until 2020 hit. Like most of you 2020 was a difficult year. It made me look at my priorities, my goals and my future in general practice. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and I urge all of you reading this to make sure you are taking time for yourself and keeping your body and mind healthy during these challenging times.
I was checking results and planning a difficult consult for the following day, late one night, when an email from a friend and colleague came through with an opportunity to apply to work as a medical educator. I have always loved working with students and registrars. I have always thought that I would gravitate towards education in my future, but the stars aligned and here I am, with ten things open on my desktop, staring into GPRime.
I feel excited about this next chapter in my career, and I was a bit nervous about being part of the CTV ME working group. I remember when I had my very first CTV as a GPT1 registrar, I was so worried about making a fool of myself. I was struggling through the day, consult by consult just like every other trainee, and thinking that’s just what I need – a more experienced colleague looking over my shoulder, noticing all the knucklehead mistakes I was making. But it was just the opposite, my CTV visitor was wonderful, and having that person with years of experience as a GP and ME concurring that they had no idea what was going on either made a huge difference to my confidence and belief that I could do this.
General practice is such an unusual job, I always find it hard to describe to my non-GP friends how isolating it can feel even when you see so many patients every day. They are not my friends and they are not my colleagues. 2020 has been a crazy year for all of us, we have made amazing advances in remote teaching and distance education. We can achieve so much remotely via a number of platforms, but I do remind you of the human nature of our profession. CTVs are not simply a box to be ticked off in GPRime, they are more than an educational evaluation and tool. Please continue to show the registrars that we are all human and we are all still learning. The best thing the registrar might get out of the visit might just be that friendly human interaction from somebody who has been through it all before them.
I look forward to working with you. Sorry in advance for any problems I may cause you. I feel like I should get some T-shirts made up with L-plates on them.
Dr Jeffrey Flaherty | Medical Educator, Hunter, New England and Central Coast