Training as a General Practitioner – PEP versus the AGPT

In order for a medical student to become a fully qualified GP (General Practitioner) in Australia, they can’t just jump straight from med school to becoming a doctor. Once a student has successfully attained a medical degree, the pathway to becoming a GP that can practice anywhere in the country relies on practical on the job training under the supervision of a specialist. Generally, this training takes place within a hospital and operates under the AGPT (Australian General Practice Training) program.

To become a fully qualified general practitioner and be able to apply for general practitioner jobs, fledgling doctors have to follow a program like the AGPT pathway to achieve this goal. Each year, the Australian Government provides funding for 1500 doctors to become qualified GPs. Full time, on the job training is provided at either city or rural hospitals.

One major goal of the program is to achieve one of the following fellowships:

  • FACRRM – Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine
  • FRACGP – Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • FRACGP and Fellowship of Advanced Rural practice

Only once one of these fellowships has been granted can a doctor register with the Medical Board of Australia and be eligible to work as a GP anywhere in the country.

There are other pathways to becoming a qualified general practitioner in Australia, but the AGPT program is one of the most well known.

Problems With the AGPT Program

While the AGPT is a sound training program, AGPT does come with some inherent problems. With AGPT placements involving training in public hospitals, many doctors complain of having to work excessively long hours with unpaid overtime. It’s a common culture among many Australian hospitals to have doctors in the AGPT program work regular overtime without additional compensation.

Not being paid for overtime is bad enough, but money is not the only issue with this scenario. Some doctors are required to work 20 to 30 hours straight in one extended shift, without sleep and sometimes not even getting a chance to have a meal break.

The most major concern is that of health and safety for the patients these doctors are caring for. Fatigue leads to errors and this can prove dangerous and costly in a hospital environment.

Working massive shifts in a hospital also doesn’t allow GPs in training to have a life outside of the hospital, which is also not good for anyone’s mental state.

The RACGP PEP (Practice Experience Program) Can Be a Better Option

This GP training program is conducted by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and completion leads to fellowship of the RACGP, and therefore the opportunity for doctors to register with the Medical Board of Australia and become fully qualified general practitioners. Once accomplished, doctors can apply for GP and GP locum jobs in Australia.

So, what are the advantages of choosing the RACGP PEP pathway over the AGPT program?

To complete the program, doctors are not required to work in public hospitals, either in cities or in a rural environment. Instead, training can take place in a general practice clinic, which has set work hours that are far more acceptable and reasonable than some of the hours GPs in training are expected to work in a 24/7 public hospital environment.

There are a number of benefits under the PEP pathway. One is lifestyle, where doctors have more free time to have a life and spend time with their families. It also means far less chance of fatigue and mistakes being made. People who are not constantly over-worked also learn better, so the training is more efficient. 

Finding Jobs As a General Practitioner

When it comes to general practitioner jobs Australia has quite a few opportunities nationwide. The best way for qualified GPs to find suitable positions is through a specialist medical recruitment company. Making use of a recruitment agency saves valuable time and stress, and these agencies have built solid connections with many people in the medical field. It’s a sound and logical way to shortcut the process of finding employment, either full time or as a locum.

In Conclusion

The pathway to becoming a fully qualified GP doesn’t solely rely on the AGPT program. There are a number of other options, with possibly the best one being the RACGP PEP training program.