In a recent survey of medical graduates appointed as interns to a major teaching hospital, the question was posed, ‘What does the medical course least prepare you for?’ Half the respondents selected practical procedures from seven choices.
While we are aware that university courses must have a sound academic basis, it is interesting to note that many newly graduating doctors are apprehensive about their basic practical skills. Fortunately, these inadequacies are usually corrected in the first few months of intern training.
Professor John Murtagh, who has been at the forefront of medical education in Australia for many years, sensed the need for ongoing practical instruction among doctors. When appointed Associate Medical Editor of Australian Family Physician in 1980 he was asked to give the journal a more practical orientation, with a wider appeal to general practitioners. He was able to draw on a collection of practical procedures from his 10 years as a country doctor that he had found useful, many of which were not described in journals or textbooks. He began publishing these tips regularly in Australian Family Physician, and this encouraged colleagues to contribute their own practical solutions to common problems. The column has been one of the most popular in the journal, and led to an invitation to Professor Murtagh to assemble these tips in one volume.
The interest in practical procedures is considerable—as witnessed by the popularity of practical skills courses, which are frequently fully booked. These have become a regular part of the Monash University Postgraduate Programme, and some of the material taught is incorporated in this book.
It is particularly pleasing to see doctors carrying out their own practical procedures. Not only is this cost-effective, in many cases obviating the need for referral, but it also broadens the expertise of the doctor and makes practice more enjoyable.
I congratulate Professor Murtagh on the compilation of this book, which I feel certain will find a prominent place on the general practitioner’s bookshelf.
Medical Education Committee
Royal Australian College of General Practitioners