Researchers based on the NSW North Coast have found that teaching pressures faced by GP supervisors may be alleviated through shared learning models for GP registrars, prevocational trainees and medical students. However, one in four practices where shared learning could occur were not using this model to teach.

The research was conducted by Dr Thea van de Mortel (Griffith University), Dr Peter Silberberg and Dr Christine Ahern of North Coast GP Training, and Dr Sabrina Pit from the University Centre for Rural Health/North Coast.

Believed to be the first national study in this field, it offers good prospects for more efficient and effective learning, according to the researchers.
The GP training community is concerned that significant capacity pressures are looming because the number of new training places for GP registrars offered for the program in 2015 will increase by 25 per cent. Further, increased numbers of medical students will require general practice teaching placements.

The team’s research, supported by Health Workforce Australia and North Coast GP Training, suggests that shared learning models may contribute to easing the GP supervisors’ burden. The study, conducted over 2013/2014, involved an anonymous online survey of 1,122 Australian GP supervisors, GP registrars, prevocational trainees and medical students.

The results showed that shared learning models assisted in addressing capacity constraints, helped build collegial relationships in the practice setting, and provided a platform for learners to benchmark their level of knowledge.

GP supervisors said learning was “a more time efficient and cost effective way to teach, compared to a one-on-one mode”.

Learners were happy to participate in the shared experience, with the majority expressing a preference to have a mixture of one-to-one and shared learning, rather than one type of teaching alone.

The identified barriers to using the shared learning model included lack of space and inadequate small group facilitation skills for GP supervisors. If such issues can be addressed, there is the potential to increase the model’s uptake, and this may be one way of increasing general practice training capacity for GP registrars, the authors believe.

They suggested involving Regional Training Providers to support the implementation of shared learning models.

A report on the research is available at the RACGP website