When asked about how they found GP placement, students’ responses often fall into one of two groups. It was either “the best thing ever” or “unfortunately, very boring”. So, how can you optimise your chances of loving your GP term?  Is it all in the hands of MedFac and your supervisor? GPSN spoke to Phase 3 students and GP Registrars Australia to find out how you can make the most of your GP placement.

Set the Agenda

  1. Before you start, think about your goals for the placement. Do you want to practise skills, observe lots of procedures or just get a feel for what being a GP is like? Things you might like to see or do include:
      Children’s health checks

Antenatal checks

Skin checks

Pap smears and pelvic exams

Mental health screening

      Vaccinations and injections

Otoscopy, fundoscopy, dermoscopy


Urine dipsticks

Giving oxygen therapy

Think about what level of participation you are comfortable with – this might be observing consultations, performing histories and procedures under supervision or seeing patients in a separate consultation room and then reporting back to your GP.

  1. When you meet your GP supervisor, bring these things up! Make it clear you want to be involved and tell them what you would like to do or see so they can try to accommodate it.
  2. Introduce yourself to all the staff and find out what they do. Remember, allied health and nursing staff can be a great source of teaching.
  3. Ask to be shown how to use the practice software, write specialist referrals, order investigations, fill out prescriptions and bill patients.

Make the Most of Every Opportunity

  1. Don’t shy away from unexpected opportunities. You might be able to go to after-hours clinics, attend home visits or spend time with allied health and nursing staff. In fact, making time to follow non-GP staff members can expose you to a broader range of patients and procedures.
  2. Learn how the clinic runs, and what each team member does for patients. This will help you work out which staff members to follow and give you insight into how primary care works.
  3. Follow up patients throughout your placement. See if you can sit in on later consultations, look at investigation results, correspondence from hospitals and specialist letters.
  4. Ask the GPs about their job! You might be interested in finding out their pathway to general practice, its challenges and benefits, and any advice they have for your future.
  5. Appreciate that while patients are often very understanding and enjoy speaking to medical students, when a patient says they are uncomfortable having you in the consultation that should be respected. You can use this time effectively by:
    • Having some study materials on hand. #Talley’s
    • Asking allied health staff to teach you, or if you can join their consultation.
    • Asking the practice nurse if they need anything done.
  6. Ask for feedback, and don’t be afraid of constructive criticism.


Never just sit in the corner! If your GP supervisor doesn’t involve you, there area number of things you can do:

  1. Ask more questions. Try to think of one question per consultation.
  2. Ask whether you could be responsible for one or more aspects of the next patient’s consultation, such as history or examination.
  3. Ask if you can practise a specific procedural skill, such as blood pressure, the next time a patient needs it done.
  4. Ask if you can interpret patients’ investigation results or correspondence.

If none of these work, you should raise the issue with your supervisor, and if that fails, talk to your rotation coordinator or medical school.

GPSN hopes that these tips will help you to gain more experience and enjoyment during your time in general practice. Best of luck for your future GP placements!

Laura Roden is Chair of General Practice Students Network UNSW

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