What are the different accreditations/qualifications for GPs?
Medical & Health, Doctors-Medical Practitioners
A general practitioner (GP) is usually the first doctor we see. They are medical practitioners who work in the community to provide primary health care for individuals and families. Sometimes they are known as the family doctor. They are experts in treating all kinds of people with many different health issues and problems throughout their bodies. If a GP thinks that a patient needs more informed treatment they will refer the patient to a specialist. A specialist is a doctor who focuses on a particular area of medicine such as the heart and blood vessels (cardiologist), pregnancy (obstetrician), musculoskeletal system (rheumatologist) etc.
To become a GP requires a medical degree. This is the case for any doctor who wants to practice medicine. There are about 20 medical schools or universities in Australia, and a medical degree can take four to six years to complete, four years if the student has already graduated with another degree, or five to six years if he hasn’t. These undergraduate and graduate teachings are accredited by the Australian Medical Council. The main qualification is called a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS).
On the job training
Doctors then complete at least 12 months of supervised practice called an internship. This is usually undertaken in a public hospital. Although doctors gain experience in many different specialties there are three main areas to be completed: general or subspecialty internal medicine, general or subspecialty surgery, and emergency medicine (in some states this can be general practice). Each State in Australia has a postgraduate Medical Council which provides this accreditation. Afterwards doctors can receive full medical registration by the relevant state Medical Board, and receive a license to practice medicine independently.
Second qualification and more training
To practice independently as a GP, doctors must complete a further program of postgraduate medical training and achieve a Fellowship of a specialist medical college, usually the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). To become a GP, training will usually be undertaken in a private general practice over three years, or four years to receive a Fellowship in Advanced Rural General Practice. This three or four year GP training program is a mixture of coursework and apprenticeship.
Once they have successfully completed the specialist training, a GP will receive a Medicare provider number. A Medicare provider number allows doctors to practice privately and bill Medicare for their services.
Trained in other areas
There are a large number of other specialist disciplines that a GP could have initially trained in. These include anaesthesia, dermatology, emergency medicine, general practice, intensive care and paediatric intensive care medicine, internal medicine, medical administration, obstetrics and gynaecology, occupational medicine, ophthalmology, paediatrics and child health, palliative medicine, pathology, psychiatry, public health medicine, radiology, rehabilitation medicine and surgery. This will give the doctor a qualification in that area.
Some doctors have qualified in another country. If they want to practice medicine in Australia, they must register and be assessed by the Australian Medical Council. There is a shortage of GPs in rural and outer metropolitan Australia and often these doctors will work in these areas.
Special interests and skills
GPs can further their interest in certain clinical areas by sub-specialising, e.g. diabetes, paediatrics, anaesthetics or palliative care. They may do a diploma or Masters Degree through a specialist college, e.g. a Diploma in Obstetrics or a Certificate of Primary Care Dermatology. You may also see this qualification on their surgery wall. GPs can receive continuing professional development to maintain their professional standing.
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