The journey to excellence in rural general practice

  • Jane Longmire, Program Training Advisor, and Lesley Webber, Manager of Continuing and Professional Development

(left to right) Jane Longmire, Program Training Advisor, and Lesley Webber, Manager of Continuing and Professional Development.

General practitioners (GPs) and other healthcare professionals in rural South Australia are accessing free professional development workshops on key rural health issues following the recent expansion of the GPEx GP Extend program.

We need more of these evenings as they not only enhance knowledge, they also bring professionals together.
Feedback from workshop participant

With these newly established workshops rolled out in Naracoorte, Port Lincoln and Mount Barker, local communities can address specific health concerns with their GPs that previously would often have involved the GP referring the patient to a specialist some distance away.

GPEx, South Australia’s general practice training organisation, established the GP Extend program in 2016 to provide additional education beyond the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program for registrars.

During its infancy, the GP Extend program consisted solely of workshops for GP registrars, supervisors, practice managers and staff. A greater insight into the GP registrar journey resulted in practice staff contributing to a richer learning environment and ultimately to a higher standard of GP registrars serving the local community.

One year on, a partnership with Country South Australia Primary Health Network (PHN) saw the program recently expand to deliver professional development to rural healthcare professionals who are not connected to the GP training program, with the first workshop held on 3 May 2017 approximately 330 kilometres south-east of Adelaide in Naracoorte.

People using laptop
The scientific explanation for the benefit of mindfulness is excellent. This is the first time I have come across an explanation that makes so much sense. - Feedback from workshop participant

The workshop, attended by 12 general practitioners, practice nurses, pharmacists and mental health coordinators, focused on developing abilities to assess and manage mental health in rural general practice. Feedback was remarkably positive, with 91 per cent agreeing that the activity was relevant to their practice, and that they developed the necessary evidence-based assessment tools to help identify common mental health presentations during patient consultations.

Presenter Dr Cate Howell provided practical, interactive training for the attendees on how to teach mindfulness to their patients, reducing the reliance on referrals to mental health specialists that are often unavailable for patients living remotely. Cate also explained the science behind why mindfulness is so effective in improving mental health.

Lesley Webber, Program Manager of Continuing and Professional Development Education at GPEx, said the importance of providing continuing professional development to rural GPs became evident during the Naracoorte workshop.

“It was wonderful to see the reaction from those attending when the presenter provided them with skills they can employ when there are limited or no referral pathways for their patients. The feedback and enthusiasm to apply this new skill set was amazing.”

Funded by Country SA PHN, GP Extend professional development workshops grew out of a needs analysis survey addressing key health priorities in rural South Australia. The workshops are free for health practitioners around rural South Australia, with the next two taking place in Mount Barker and Port Lincoln to explain the changes to cervical screening.

For more information about the GP Extend program and upcoming events, visit the website at

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