Monthly Archives: April 2013

ruralflyingdoc has moved!

Please go to the new ruralflyingdoc website and update your links. This site will not be updated anymore. Cheers, Gerry

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AHPRA notifications: A junior doctors guide


In the past year, I have been subject to two notifications via AHPRA. This seems to be a trend across Australia, with numbers of complaints/notifications rising. A recent Age article demonstrated this and some of the predictive factors. For a junior doctor like myself having only practiced for three full years, it was like getting hit with a truck full of bricks. Of course I won’t to go into details, but suffice to say nothing permanent gone onto my record. However in both cases (one being from a parent in a tertiary ED and the other from another doctor), I have learnt a great deal. Yes the medical board is there to protect the public, but both times I had the feeling of having to prove my innocence, not the other way around. I’m sure that it is more the way my mind appreciated the situation rather than the intended effect of the process, but it certainly feels for want of a better word…shithouse.  The length of time taken for each issue was also appalling. It took at least 4-5 months from initial notification to final outcome. This is something that the big GP stakeholders have recognised in this article via Medical Observer. It is something that I would not wish upon anyone, but if you find yourself there…here are my tips:

Take good notes

In both cases, I was lucky to have written good contemporaneous notes that I was able to look back on. They not only helped me remember the particular case, but also to demonstrate that I am a competent clinician to the board. I could not imagine being hauled up and not have sufficient details to help explain my actions. Take good notes, its a must.

Contact your MDO

In trouble for that mo!

In trouble for that mo!

Again on both occasions, my first phone call following the notification was to my medical defence organisation. They helped set up a file, had their team look over the case and help me draft a response. Although some doctors may feel comfortable handling the response themselves, I certainly had immense support from my MDO during what is a difficult time. You will save a lot of hassle if you wish to defend yourself from any action the board may take if your MDO is on board from the get go.

Explain your situation

When it comes to writing your response, make sure that you let the reader know the situation you are working in. That might be an overcrowded or busy ED, rural location without support, walk up clinic and everything in between. Without coming across apologetic, if you at least provide some background, the board can put your situation in context.

Ask for support

Often your character or actions will be disputed by the complaint. Fight back! You know yourself the sort of doctor you are and why you joined the profession. If you have collegues that can appropriately support you in writing, do it. These are the people that know best how you work day to day. Not a single patient, family member or doctor you’ve never met.


Talk with someone about the situation. Even though I would consider myself a moderately resilient person, when you get that first phone call or letter, your heart sinks. Here you are practicing in a profession that aims to improve the health of others and the big stick gets pointed at you. For me I felt many emotions both times, often all at once! In order to continue practicing and maintain a love of doctoring, I needed many chats with close friends and collegues. I also needed to keep working. The patients that thank you for your time and help can certainly heal a bruised ego. Unfortunately it only takes those one or two complaints (whether justified or not) to damage a whole day of grateful patients.


Filed under AHPRA, Emergency Medicine, General Practice, Health Policy, Rural GP

12th National Rural Health Conference Podcasts

“Live from Adelaide, its the 12th NHRC in April 2013!!”

Over the four day 12th National Rural Health Conference, I was lucky enough for sit down for a couple of minutes with some interesting delegates who told me a little about their path to the country and why they are so passionate about rural health. Listen to their stories here:

Sian Draffin (@rural_speechie)


Speaking with a Speechie

Talking with Sian, a newly qualified speech pathologist about growing up in the country and now working as a speechie in these areas. We also cover the future of social media connecting with patients in her profession.

Ben Crough (@BenCrough)


Talking with final year pharmacy student Ben Crough. He grew up in rural NSW and is aiming towards working in remote areas. Another Robbo (@bitethedust) for outback Australia perhaps?!

Dave Townsend (@futuregp)

Time out downstairs

Time out downstairs

Talking with medical student and the current GPSN chair about his time studying in rural areas. Dave is in 4th year at the University of New England in Armidale. He grew up Tasmania and has lived in country Victoria.

Andrew (Robbo) Roberts (@bitethedust)

Blending in

Blending in

Talking with Australia’s most remote and itinerant pharmacist. Some say he travels around because no one can stand him for longer than a few days, but we know it’s because he loves his job working in rural areas. We cover issues facing pharmacy in these settings.

Alison Fairleigh (@alisonfairleigh)

Discussing mental health in the bush

Discussing mental health in the bush

Talking with rural mental health advocate and ‘power-tweeter’ Alison Fairleigh about living in the country and what motivated her to do something about her passion of mental health in the bush.

Katherine King & Rachael Purcell


Talking with Katherine and Rachael who are both medical students in Victoria about their presentation at NHRC 2013. They looked at the supports and challenges for medical students on rural placements.

Donna Burns

Dance floor destructors!

Dance floor destructors!

Talking with Donna Burns about working and living in the country and what took her there. Donna currently works for Hunter Medicare Local in both rural and larger regional towns, but has some ideas if she was the NSW Health Minister!


Filed under General Practice, Health Policy, Rural GP