50 and male? You're Dr Typical
IF you were painting a portrait of the typical Australian GP, the AMA’s new vice-president Dr Steve Hambleton (pictured) would pretty much fit the bill.
At age 48, he’s just two years shy of the average age of 50, works in a group practice, and puts in about 41 hours of consulting per week.
The latest available official GP statistics show that not too much has changed in the GP landscape since Medical Observer last looked comprehensively at this picture back in 2006, although work hours have continued to drop to an average of about 38.7 hours per week.
The statistics, from the Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health (BEACH) project, show the average GP is 50, male and works in a practice of around 4.5 full-time equivalent GPs, each working 8.2 sessions per week.
But there may be a Benjamin Button effect about to take place.
“With regard to age, I think there is a bit of a plateauing going on,” says BEACH director Associate Professor Helena Britt. The looming impact of increased university enrolments and GP training may start to drag the average GP age down before 2020, she suggests.
“You could hypothesise that age will start to decrease at 2012 onwards gradually – but very gradually,” she cautions.
For his part, Dr Hambleton has no plans to shift away from ‘typical’ general practice.
He has worked in the same Brisbane group practice for more than two decades and wouldn’t have it any other way.
“The life of the solo practitioner is pretty tough, and you haven’t got any professional colleagues you can rely on; holidays are really critical,” he says.
He estimates he completes around 41 hours of patient contact per week with an additional 2-3 hours of paperwork, on top of his new federal AMA workload.
And he credits the team environment of the group practice for providing him the opportunity to pursue his career in medico-politics, saying it has also allowed similar flexible working arrangements for his colleagues to strike a healthier work-life balance.
“The model of care with multiple colleagues and allied services on site is going to become more and more popular.
“We also have a number of practice nurses who work with us, and we utilise them significantly.”