06 March 2018

Introducing our new Senior Medical Educator, Dr Penny Need.

The GPEx team is pleased to introduce Dr Penny Need as the new Senior Medical Educator.

Dr Need is a Practice Partner at the Pioneer Medical Centre in Tea Tree Gully, where she and three other General Practitioners (GPs) trained as registrars before the opportunity arose for the four doctors to purchase the practice.

That decision was simple, however the initial choice to pursue a career in general practice was not as straightforward.

“When I was in medical school, I went to one general practice rotation in a rural town and it was awful.

“I thought GP was terrible and wondered why anyone would want to do this.”

Then a six-week placement in the Barossa Valley’s charming town of Angaston changed her mind.

“Angaston was great and they did everything,” she says, referring to the many different aspects of rural general practice.

“There was hospital medicine, a lovely community and a welcoming bunch of doctors with all different skills and interests.

“I thought, yes, I can do this!”

Soon after commencing her hospital year, Dr Need decided she wanted the autonomy to care for patients the way she thought they “deserved to be cared for”.

“I applied for general practice in internship year, as soon as I could, and did my first rotation out in Crystal Brook. It proved that I made the right choice.”

For a GP, the only certainty is variety. Each patient presentation adds to the infinite list of health topics and challenges addressed over the span of a career. While Dr Need does not admit to focusing on a formal set of special interests, some have naturally developed over time.

“I’ve done some additional qualifications in child health and mental health, so I do have a bit more interest in those areas but I like to say I’m a ‘general practitioner’ so I do everything.”

Despite the commute from her home to Pioneer Medical Centre taking longer than she would like, she says the benefits of working in an outer metropolitan area like Tea Tree Gully far outweigh any challenges.

“For an urban general practice, you still feel like you’re part of the community,” she said. “You know all of the schools in the area, which means you recognise the uniforms the children are wearing and you know some of the teachers they have so you can develop a more meaningful rapport.

“And I saw three newborns last week, which was really fun,” she said.

Pioneer Medical Centre is an accredited training practice and partners with GPEx to deliver the Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) program to GP registrars.

Dr Need is a secondary supervisor and finds that registrars are not only a great resource, but that even the most experienced GPs can learn from them too.

“Seeing registrars become the GPs that they want to become is very rewarding as a supervisor,” she said.

“With general practice, just because you mentor someone it doesn’t mean they will end up like you – in fact, you don’t want them to!

“They take bits from all their mentors over their career and become their own GP, which is always unique and offers something different to their community.”

For students completing their degree at university, Dr Need recommends trying various practices before deciding on a career path.

“A lot of the time in medical school, there’s a bit of stigma around general practice,” she said.

“When they actually see it’s not just scripts and colds, it’s really nice to see that recognition and watch them turn.”

For students who have a similar negative experience during their time at university, Dr Need urges them not to rule out a career in general practice.

“Remember, if you have seen one general practice, you’ve seen one general practice. If you get an opportunity to go to a few different practices then do that.

“Your next experience might be fantastic.”

Dr Penny Need is a mother of three children and keen basketballer in her spare time – when she can find any.

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