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Satisfaction with GP training is high despite ongoing impact of COVID-19
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Satisfaction with GP training is high despite ongoing impact of COVID-19

Research 7 minute read

The Australian Council for Educational Research is conducting a survey of the training needs and experiences of Australia's general practice registrars. Results from the 2021 survey show that registrars continue to recover from the impact of COVID-19 on their professional training, as the Australian Government explores ways to address their concerns around portability of leave entitlements. 

Each year, registrars are invited to complete the Australian General Practice Training National Registrar Survey (AGPT NRS) to gauge their satisfaction, learn about their experiences and ascertain future career plans. Their feedback, and other demographic and contextual information is used by the Department of Health and other GP training stakeholders to assess the quality of the training they provide and to identify areas where changes could be made. 

The 2021 survey was completed by approximately 1100 of the 4000 registrars who were enrolled in training in Semester 1, 2021. The 2021 survey window was open from 28 June until 6 August, a time when Australia was bracing for the impact of the Delta variant on its population. In this period, two states came out of lockdown and New South Wales and Victoria moved to much harsher restrictions. This was a very demanding time for General Practitioners in their support of their client communities in providing advice on vaccinations and COVID-19 treatment. 

It is encouraging that the findings from the 2021 survey show that although COVID-19 continued to impact the registrar population, that effect had decreased since 2020. In terms of satisfaction with their training facility or registered training organisation (RTO), 91 per cent and 84 per cent were satisfied with the support they received, a five percentage point increase for both types of provider since 2020. In addition: 

  • 27 per cent indicated that COVID-19 had an impact on their progression towards completion, a 19 percentage point decrease from 46 per cent in 2020 

  • 25 per cent reported that the number of patients or presentations were negatively impacted by COVID-19, a 12 percentage point improvement from 37 per cent in 2020 

  • 28 per cent of registrars reported that the diversity of patients or presentations were negatively affected, a 10 percentage point improvement from 38 per cent in 2020. 

Some registrars also revealed their frustrations in the open-response question about what could have been improved about the program’s response to the pandemic.  

'Face to face workshops with registrars are sorely missed as neither friendship or study groups have been formulated.'  – General Pathway, female, FRACGP 

Survey results also support investigations into future improvements in the AGPT program. The 2020 survey asked registrars about additional leave entitlements and which types would be the most beneficial for them during training. When asked how beneficial it would be to have additional leave entitlements during training, exam and study leave, most registrars selected portable leave entitlements and annual leave to be quite a bit or very much beneficial (85%, 81% and 71% respectively). More than half also selected personal and parental leave to be quite a bit or very much beneficial (57% for both types of leave) while only one-third of respondents selected long service leave to be quite a bit or very much beneficial.  

'Exam and study leave should absolutely be included in a training program that mandates exams. Registrars should not be forced to use their annual leave or take leave without pay for exams, and there should be a week at least of study leave. Most registrars have financial commitments and it is unfair to have to choose between leave to spend time with family or preparing for exams.' – General Pathway, Female, RACGP  

Informed by registrars’ feedback, the Australian Government is funding a feasibility study to explore introducing portable leave entitlements for GP registrars.  

The Australian Council for Educational Research adapts each iteration of the NRS to draw out different aspects of the registrar experience. Standard survey questions ask about demographic and training characteristics, satisfaction with their RTO, training facilities and college, their health and wellbeing, training related to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health, training choices, career aspirations and future plans. And in 2022, the survey will take a closer look at the transition from government-led training to training being provided by the Colleges. They will also be asking Rural Generalists about their experiences on behalf of AHA Consulting for the Department of Health. The Department of Health relies on registrars to support the continuous improvement of doctor training in the AGPT program and can use these data to understand trends in the requirements of registrars. 

The 2022 National Registrar Survey launches on 27 June 2022. 

Find out more:
Read the full 2021 AGPT NRS report.  

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