05 June 2017

Communication key to good liaison support


Dr Sarah Chalmers was more or less herded into the supervisor liaison officer role when the previous SLO for NTGPE resigned. “The truth of the matter is that the last guy didn’t want to do it anymore and no one applied for it. I got lots of good encouragement which made me think that there were some good things that I could do with it. I got lots of ideas from the previous SLO”. One of Sarah’s conditions for taking on the role was that it would be shared, which means NTGPE currently has two SLOs. The other half of the arrangement is Dr Anne Kleinitz.

Sarah lives in East Arnhem Land in a small town called Nhulunbuy with her family and works in Tennant Creek in Central Australia. Anne lives and works in Darwin. “It works really well. We have different backgrounds and we’re in different locations and so we have different connections. It is a little bit of a shame that we both do mainstream at the moment though”.

Sarah has a long history with NTGPE, having trained with NTGPE and working as a GP in the NT for over a decade. When asked what she sees as the benefits of being an SLO Sarah said that when she was a registrar and supervisor with NTGPE she wasn’t engaged with the organisation. “It is easy to be negative and I have discovered lots of positive things about the organisation which opens up lots of opportunities”. Meeting other supervisors and hearing people’s wisdom are draw cards for Sarah.

The challenges of the role are not so cut and dry, and almost always centred around communication.

“As GPs we sit in a room and problem solve on our own and when there are issues it is not always the first thing we do to go and find someone else. And this is the case for the NT as well because we are so remote”.

Sarah explains the challenges of creating a sense of unity amongst the supervisor group, and an understanding of what role the SLO can play in that. “You have to try to connect on an individual level as someone that supervisors can go through to get their information across to NTGPE. People don’t think about bringing in the SLO as a way to cope with challenges”.

When asked if she thinks this is an issue specific to the NT, Sarah suggests it could be worse in other areas, because the NT remains small enough that people know each other. “If you were SLO for a larger RTO it would be more difficult to have that level of connection”.

When asked what message Sarah would like to be able to get across in her time as SLO, her response was “to encourage supervisors to come earlier rather than later and also have supervisors feeling like they have a collective group that can do things. We are there to help”.

Dr Sarah Chalmers
The challenges of the role are not so cut and dry, and almost always centred around communication.