This article was first published by Dr Jane Barker, NRGPN Board member, on the website To Medicine with Love.

Last week I met up with a newly graduated medical student whom I had mentored during his training. He had missed the award ceremony for his medical degree for personal reasons. When we met, without prior discussion, we both produced from our pockets a copy of the “Physician’s Pledge”, the newest version of the Hippocratic Oath, having independently decided that the time was right to read it together.

We walked up to the Byron Bay lighthouse and together stood on the hang-gliding platform, looking out over the stunning view from Tallows Beach to Broken Head, and together read the pledge: “I solemnly pledge to dedicate my life to the service of humanity” … he, ready to launch into his career, me coming towards the end of mine; a handing over of the baton, as it were. I reflected on the words, what they had meant in my life and asked myself whether I had upheld them.

It was a special moment.

Dr Anne Malatt - Eye Surgeon demonstrating the use of a slit lamp

The term ‘clinical skills’ refers to those clinical examination and procedural skills commonly used in the diagnostic and/or therapeutic management of patients in clinical environments, and is an integral and important part of everyday medical practice.

They can be taught in clinical settings with real patients or in simulated settings. Around 20 senior UOW medical students are fortunate to have the opportunity to learn essential clinical skills from our local clinicians each week.

Ophthalmologists, allied health professionals, surgeons and GPs are just some of the committed educators who contribute to enhancing the students’ abilities. Each week our program allocates clinical skills teaching time, which can be anything from using a slit lamp, navigating software programs, immunisation techniques to managing snake bites. 

Dr Louise Imlay-Gillespie is a haematologist in the Northern NSW Local Health District and is based at the Lismore Base Hospital. She is the founder of the Northern Rivers Doctors Facebook Group. 

In December 2017 the Northern Rivers Doctors Facebook Group (NoRDocs) was officially launched. This group was conceived by a mixed group including GPs and hospital specialists alike. Since initiation it has grown quickly and already boasts more than 90 members. Membership is confined to doctors, past and present, working or living on the North Coast. 

The group is intended to provide a space for Medical Practitioners from the Northern Rivers to communicate, collaborate and advocate on medical issues affecting our  community. It is hoped that this will encompass the whole of the Northern Rivers region from Grafton to Tweed Heads. This is an independent group that is not affiliated with any organisation or government department.

Any member can contribute any post that is relevant to our medical community including educational articles, reports of services offered and upcoming events or meetings. It is hoped that there will be ‘champions’ for each region and specialty that will ensure content remains timely and useful to members of the group.

A doctor exacting payment for a house-call from a disgruntled patient. Lithograph by H.W. Bunbury.

Following recommendations by the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) Review Taskforce the federal government is moving to reduce expenditure on often-notionally urgent after-hours home visits by doctors, which increased by 157 per cent between 2010–11 and 2016–17. 

Announcing the changes, Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “There is no clinical explanation for the large increase, but rather the growth has been driven by a corporate model of largely advertising on the basis of convenience, rather than medical need.”

The changes are in response to concerns raised by GPs that some doctors who are not GPs are providing urgent after-hours care, and that some treatments being claimed as urgent are not genuinely urgent. 

The minister explained that the Taskforce found access to urgent after-hours care should be used “only when necessary and that funding should be appropriate to the level of care being provided.” 

Depression by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

‘Culture’ and ‘compassion’ were the key themes raised in the final report of the National Forum on Reducing Risk of Suicide in the Medical Profession, released at the end of December 2017

The forum was convened in September by the AMA and Doctors’ Health Services Pty Ltd (DrHS), a subsidiary of the AMA that is funded by the Medical Board of Australia.

The report records the considerations and recommendations of the 82 doctors nominated by key medical stakeholder organisations who attended the forum.

Under the microscope were the individual, organisational, and environmental issues seen to impact negatively on the emotional health and wellbeing of doctors.