Updates from the Northern Territory Medical Program (NT)

Dr Nige Gray takes a few moments to reflect on his first months in the Northern Territory Medical Program.

Approaching the end of my fifth month as a Senior Lecturer on the NTMP, the privileged position which I hold is becoming more apparent to me by the week.

Whether as year 2 topic co-ordinator, as year 1 tutor, as GP Block contributor, as peer reviewer of colleagues’ sessions or their delivery, as Central Australian Year 3 CBL facilitator, as Supervisor support, or as placement broker I have been provided with the broadest imaginable oversight of student teaching and learning across year groups, regions and contexts.

What I have observed is an intricate network of collegial threads of support, some intertwined, others yet to be fully developed nor incorporated into the mesh. What is necessary is the continued strengthening of these threads into more substantial frameworks which can be relied upon to bear the academic weight in times of stress, but also at all times to provide the foundation from which a sustainable Northern Territory workforce can grow in the interests of best practice healthcare for its widely diverse population.

This network has branches throughout student and junior doctor cohorts; clinical supervisors and remote community training posts; and within the academic faculty itself.

The vertically integrated model of student care transcends its dispersed location as evidenced by the year 4s’ initiative to support their year 2 colleagues in working towards the end of year clinical skills assessment and thereafter a successful journey during the clinical years themselves. The unmatched translation rate of previous years’ clinical students into locally based interns and RMOs in Central Australia bears testimony to the strength in adversity model of support in what is widely broadcast as a region of particular challenge. These junior doctors will go on to be mentors for their colleagues jumping into the flow from upstream. This succession planning has been neither engineered nor scripted; it has come from the passion for and engagement with community which has been role modelled by local senior clinicians, clinicians themselves who demonstrate a vocation for the teaching and support of student and junior doctor colleagues.

Nevertheless the clinicians, the supervisors, the preceptors all require and thrive within networks of their own. In a jurisdiction as under populated as the Territory these networks function most effectively when the interdependence of multidisciplinary skills is acknowledged and respected, akin to the community models which in turn best showcase quality healthcare. And this I believe mandates ourselves, as progressive academics, to tap into the resources provided by the interprofessional craft groups with whom we may share an educational platform, an office, a town, or a yarn, to provide support to those networks of supervision so essential in developing fertile environments for student maturation. The sharing of stories and of experiences spreads the load and sustains the passion. I sense this collegiality is most strongly practised in the regional centres of the Territory where teams have invested in and come to truly understand their own communities, but nevertheless can still see opportunities for greater integration by way of formalised peer support and coming together.

This may all seem like work in progress, which it undoubtedly is.

However the responses from within both the Katherine and Alice Springs teams to highly challenging local events, occurring during the short time which I have been on board has been sufficient to demonstrate to our students that the investment in their placements is very real. The students themselves, despite these challenges, continue to boast loudly to their peers in the bigger smokes of the unparalleled clinical opportunities they enjoy down the track and wonder why ever some colleagues express such reluctance to join them; knowing of course that when they do, they too will come to see the light !”

Dr Nige Gray
Senior Lecturer
Flinders NT | Northern Territory Medical Program

Posted in