The bush medicine secret to better business

Struggling to hang on to doctor staff? This episode offers more than a few gems of wisdom from the most unlikely location. 

Today, The Tea Room travels to Crystal Brook, a rural town 200 kilometres north of Adelaide. There we meet Dr Richard McKinnon co- owner of Crystal Brook Medical Practice – a small-town clinic that is anything but small. After 35 years in this farming community, he knows the hacks to running a thriving practice that allows plenty of time to play golf. The secret, it appears, is knowing how to retain registrars. 

“The current generation, quite rightly and no criticism at all, won't go to single-doctor practices, they won't go to two doctor practices and they probably won't go to three doctor practices. Because it's all about work life, balance and lifestyle,” Dr McKinnon says. 

At Crystal Brook Medical Practice registrars are “really looked after”, says Dr McKinnon. 

“They don't do any more on-call than I do. They're very well supported. And if they want to go and play netball in winter and they're on call, I'll cover them and they'll cover me when I want to go sailing. And the ones we like and who like us tend to stay,” he said. 

Providing great training is another major drawcard for registrars. At Crystal Brook they get hands-on experience assessing and treating conditions, like gout and polymyalgia rheumatica, which in a city clinic would be normally referred to another specialist. 

“I think rural GPs will do more procedures perhaps than our city colleagues because you don't want the patient have to travel 200 kilometres for treatment. And if you're not kind of putting patients at increased risk then we will do those treatments and try to encourage and teach the registrars coming through,” he said. 

Dr McKinnon sees an over reliance on “sophisticated investigations” in current training approaches in large hospitals. He believes this can compromise clinical acumen and the confidence to diagnose and treat some patients. 

“You go to Medical School, in my case for six years of medicine, then four years post-graduate. Basically you've done 10 years training. If you then don't use your clinical acumen, well, it just breaks my heart,” Dr McKinnon said. 

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