A successful scheme to attract medical students to a career as a rural GP has been run for a second time by the University of Aberdeen.
The award-winning initiative, started last year, was set up to tackle the declining number of doctors joining practices in non-urban areas, leaving some areas with the prospect of no local doctors in the near future.
Made possible by a donation from the late Mr Joe Officer, this year’s expedition saw 14 students embark on a tour of Deeside where they visited local GP practices and hospitals, took part in ‘speed-dating style’ discussions with trainee GPs from the area and undertook outdoor scenarios with the Mountain Rescue Team.
In addition to seeing first-hand the demands and variety involved in being a rural GP, the students also had time to enjoy some of the benefits of living in a rural area with a mountain bike expedition through Ballater.
One of the students, Caitlin Stewart, said: “This trip was a great experience and really helped open my eyes to the realities of working as a GP in a rural setting. The job seems more varied than it might be in a more urban-based clinic and I was surprised to see the amount of services they are able to offer in rural settings.
Another student who attended the trip, Fabbiha Ashad, added: “It’s hard to appreciate what all is involved in working in a rural setting until you get a chance to meet those who do it day-to-day in their own clinics. Touring the facilities and getting quality time to speak with GPs and trainees about what their working lives are like was invaluable and certainly gives us something to think about as we plan where we want our careers to go. Sampling the lifestyle benefits such a setting can offer was also a real eye opener.”
Whilst last year’s trip was an extra-curricular activity, this time around the excursion formed an optional part of the formal curriculum for first year medical students and was hugely popular.
In 2017 the course was named joint winner of the Innovation in Primary Care Award by the Royal College of GPs North East Scotland Faculty.
Course leaders hope to establish the trip as a regular part of the course from now on.
Dr Linzi Lumsden, a GP and Senior Clinical Lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, said: “We’re delighted to have been able to offer a second group of students the chance to visit a number of rural GP clinics and spend time speaking with the GPs and trainees who already work here.
“There is a lot of research, some carried out by academics at the University of Aberdeen, which suggests that early exposure and positive experience of General Practice early on for medical students encourages them to choose GP as a career.
“The shortage of GPs in rural areas is a real concern and something that needs to be tackled on a number of fronts. This programme seems to be a hit with those who have completed it and if it helps in any way to attract some of them to pursue a career as a rural GP then it is time well spent.”