A general physician is a medical specialist who provides a range of non-surgical health care to adult patients including diagnosis and management of difficult, serious or unusual medical problems.
A general physician has a broad range of expertise compared to specialist physicians who focus on one system or special area of medical knowledge. This allows general physicians to be especially beneficial to patients whose problems are undifferentiated and/or affect multiple organ systems. General physicians can be the supervisor of patients with these complex, multi-faceted or undiagnosed cases due to their broad knowledge of practice.
General physicians can also practice in areas such as peri-operative medicine, obstetric medicine, acute stroke medicine, clinical pharmacology, palliative care and acute care of the elderly.
General physicians can work in a public hospital or private hospital, rurally, regionally or in metropolitan centres.
The Internal Medicine Society of Australia and New Zealand has additional information about the role of a general physician which can be found here.
FULL PANEL RECORDING
Enjoyable aspects of the work?
As a general physician you need:
- Diagnostic skills and an inquisitive approach
- Strong interest in medical pathways
- Strong communication skills with patients, their families, other clinicians and health care workers
- Multidisciplinary approach
- Procedural skills
- Good clinical decision making and clinical reasoning
- Enjoyment in subacute work and continuity of care.
If you enjoyed your general medicine rotations as an intern or resident but you’re still not sure what you want to do, a great option is to apply for Basic Physician Training because you will gain a broad knowledge across all the specialties through this training. Then the skills you have learnt will be transferable to any specialty training that you choose to do.
Should I apply if I'm uncertain about what I want to do?
What is the work-life balance like as a physician trainee?
What is good to know prior to applying for this training program?
To become a general physician, you will first need to complete your Basic Physician Training (BPT) in Adult Internal Medicine which is three years and then Advanced Training in General and Acute Care Medicine, which is another three years.
The process for BPT applications usually starts around August of the year before you wish to commence, at which time there will be information published on MedJobsWA. You will need to have a job as an RMO or registrar at either Royal Perth, Sir Charles Gairdner or Fiona Stanley Hospitals in Perth and then you can apply for physician training on top of this. There’s a written application process which includes your CV, referees, selection criteria and then there are interviews. The process is the same at all the hospital sites in WA.
You want to put some time and effort into writing your selection criteria and your CV. It’s not a ‘do the night before’ kind of job. It’s really helpful to find yourself some mentors such as others that are already undertaking their Basic Physician Training or other consultants that you get along with and discuss your application with them so they can provide you with some advice about what to include. The panelists are looking for trainees that are passionate about being a physician, medicine in general, working with patients or academic medicine. They’re looking for people who enjoy ongoing education because you need to do this as a physician to keep up-to-date. They also look at evidence of attending education sessions or research experience or an audit.
You can include physician consultants as your referees or consultants and advanced trainees from other specialties. Research does help you with your efforts to get into basic training but it’s not essential and you can get in without this.
The interviews are made up of five stations and at each station there will be a question with two senior consultants/educators/college examiners. The focus isn’t on factual medical knowledge because you can learn this and will learn this through Basic Physician Training. The interviewers are looking more at the other qualities of a physician such as teamwork and communication skills.
After you have completed 24 months of training you will be eligible to apply to sit the Divisional Written Exam. You need to pass the written exam to be eligible for the Divisional Clinical Exam. Once you’ve passed the clinical exam and completed all the requirements for Basic Training including the time requirements you’re able to apply for Advanced Training.
The exams require quite a lot of study but at each of the hospitals there are lecture and education programs and written tutorials to help people through the exams. The College also has a huge bank of high-quality lectures available online and there’s also courses that Basic Trainees can attend. There’s lots of support available so don’t be put off because you don’t feel confident about the exams because there’s lots of support available to help get you through them.
It is valuable to find a mentor that you get on well with plus always use the people who you’re working with. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions because most people working in hospitals are keen to assist and support people through their training. You can also go to the postgraduate medical education unit at your hospital and they should be able to assist with finding you a mentor.
Following successful completion of your Basic Physician Training, you can apply for the Advanced Training in General and Acute Care Medicine. This program is three years of full-time equivalent training involving 24 months of core training, 12 months of non-core training and one Advanced Training Research Project. Refer to RACP for further details.
A trainee has eight years to get through Basic Training with an extra two years of parental leave. For a three-year Advanced Training program, you’ll have eight years to complete with an extra two years of parental leave.
People do apply from their intern year but you’re more likely to be successful if you apply from your PGY2 or PGY3 year because you have more experience. It’s good to have some registrar experience under your belt before you start applying for Advanced training. Often have people step up from RMO to registrar either at the start or partway through their second year.
In terms of work-life balance most of the training programs and departments are quite supportive of parental leave.
What is Basic Physician and Advanced Physician training?
Do I need to be currently employed to apply for RACP?
What is the exam process and education support for RACP like?
What is the application process for RACP training?
How can I find a mentor as a Physician trainee?
What should I consider when choosing this training?
What is the parental leave like for physician trainees?
What PGY level is common to apply for training?
What are the physician interviews like?
Physicians can work in either the public or the private sector and can work in rural, regional and metropolitan areas.
N.B. Career prospects are dependent on both the supply of specialists and the projected future demand for services provided by medical specialists (including general practitioners). The complex interplay of supply and demand is currently being modelled at both a state and national level and will be included when it's available.