05 June 2017

Communication key to good liaison support


Dr Sarah Chalmers was more or less herded into the NTGPE Supervisor Liaison Officer position, which she shares with Dr Anne Kleinitz.

“I got lots of good encouragement which made me think that there were some good things that I could do with [the role]," Dr Chalmers said.

Dr Chalmers lives in East Arnhem Land in a small town called Nhulunbuy with her family, and also works in Tennant Creek in Central Australia, while Dr Kleinitz 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,” Dr Chalmers said.

Dr Chalmers has a long history with NTGPE, having trained with NTGPE as a registrar and working as a GP in the NT for over a decade. When asked about the benefits of working with NTGPE, Dr Chalmers said meeting other supervisors and hearing people’s wisdom were the biggest drawcards for her.

“I have discovered lots of positive things about the organisation, which opens up lots of opportunities,” she said. "The challenges of the role are not so cut and dry and are almost always centred around communication."

As GPs we sit in a room and problem solve on our own and when there are issues. It's 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.

Dr Chalmers said her biggest challenges in the role were to create a sense of unity among the supervisor group, and an understanding of what role of the SLO can play in that dynamic.

“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,” she said.

When asked if she thinks this is an issue specific to the NT, Dr Chalmers suggests NT-based SLOs benefit from the close-knit local medical community, because the NT remains small enough that people can form effective networks.

"If you were SLO for a larger RTO it would be more difficult to have that level of connection,” she said.

When asked what message she would like to be able to get across in her time as SLO, Dr Chalmer said it would be to encourage supervisors to come forward earlier rather than later.

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