Dr Paul Mercer

Paul has enjoyed a long and varied career as a GP Supervisor since 1988 supervising 78 registrars during this time. Since establishing Silky Oaks Medical Practice in Manly west, Queensland in 1987, Paul has developed skills in chronic disease care, addiction medicine, mental health care, palliative and aged care, and minor procedures. Paul is aware of a maturity that has grown through the experience of registrar teaching. This has allowed the development of material for conference presentations around such topics as “Wisdom & Learning” and “Curiosity & Learning” in registrar training and teaching a number of Doctor’s Health workshops. Paul is currently involved in a GPTQ research project looking at the teaching of doctor’s health in the registrar training experience.

Recognition Reward Program

GPSA Reward and Recognition program

The GPSA reward and recognition program recognises the hard work and dedication of GP supervisors. If you are are a GP supervisor with over 10 years of supervising experience, we would like to recognise your dedication to nurturing the next generation of family practitioners. To nominate, you must be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) and/or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) to train GP registrars engaged within the Australian General Practice Training program.

Nominated GP supervisors will receive:

  • Recognition of Service Award
  • ‘Training Practice is a Quality Practice’ Poster
  • Media release advising local MPs and your local media of your service to the community

To nominate a GP supervisor or yourself please click the button below

GP Supervisor profile – Dr Paul Mercer

What rewards do you feel you have gained from GP Supervision?
In a GP Supervisor career spanning over 33 years, I have gained many rewards from working intensively with registrars, experiencing great camaraderie and enjoyment as well as developing my professional skills. Learning and developing teaching skills in the real world has been a major part of this journey. In my practice we adapted our GP training approach to incorporate vertical integration, so that medical students can learn both from GP supervisors and registrars in the practice. Developing a practice culture where everyone values learning, including the patients was a major part of this. I developed my skills in team building in the practice through this process. I enjoyed sharing a meal with each registrar at the start and end of their term which helped in establishing strong working relationships with them. Overall, working as a GP supervisor has kept me fresh and current in my clinical practice, as well as establishing firm friendships, attending weddings, and celebrating births of children of registrars I have trained.

Do you feel that you learn from GP Registrars also? If so, what type of things have you learnt?
I have learnt a lot from registrars over the years, including finding out more about different learning styles they may have, and developing different teaching and learning planning approaches to accommodate this. Some registrars were particularly good at planning their own learning and I learnt a lot from them. Thanks to being responsive to their enthusiasm to learn, I have managed to maintain close to cutting edge medicine in my own practice. I have enjoyed learning from the specialty skills some registrars may have acquired before joining our practice. I also learnt a lot from education and training conferences and workshops which formed a background to my 1 to 1 teaching. Learning from GP supervisor peers and gaining encouragement from them helps generate wisdom. I also learnt research skills through my involvement with some registrars.

What are the challenges of GP supervision?
The main challenges are balancing the competing demands of managing a practice, having a growing family, seeing patients and training registrars. My wife has had to warn me at times to keep these different areas under control. It is always hard to take leave when I am tired if I know that a registrar is struggling and there is no-one else to supervise them. Learning to teach outside of my own particular learning style was also a struggle but allowed me to mature as a teacher. The emotional challenges of registrars and issues they may be having were also problematic at times. Managing patients with misunderstandings of different experience levels of doctors has also been challenging. Rostering and admin also provided challenges, and delays in money for training coming through can also be frustrating. At times I have worked with registrars who may have particular needs and it has been rewarding to see every one of them go on and succeed under my guidance. This includes working with IMG registrars who have cultural and communication issues, and differences in their basic training that need to be understood and worked through respectfully.

Do you have any anecdotes of a good supervision experience that you would like to share?
At one stage I managed to catch my left foot under a ride on mower and was in hospital for a while before recovering at home. At the time it was great to see how gracious and supportive the registrars were, coming to my house for teaching sessions and ringing up for phone support if needed, as well as keeping the practice running. One registrar I worked with had their whole world collapse when their father who was also a GP died during the middle of their training term. It was an honour to support them through the difficult time after this tragedy and then see a flourishing unfold as a GP in their father’s practice. Another registrar used their lunch break to train an ocean swimming race. She was very successful at this first attempt.

How has GPSA Supported you?
I recognise the solid value of peer support networks that GPSA provides, as well as negotiating conditions for us where we don’t have the time to do this. Many of the teaching skills documents I have used have been good and useful, in particular the Ethical Dilemmas flash cards which I have found a great tool for teaching different scenarios. Conferences and other networking opportunities to speak face to face with other supervisors have been invaluable.

What would you say to others considering becoming a GP supervisor?
There are amazing career opportunities to being a GP supervisor. It is a role which helps in keeping up to date and challenges your own communication and clinical skills. Learning to teach others adds a layer of depth to your knowledge. It offers a goldmine opportunity to provide authentic mentoring not found in many other disciplines anymore. This is Hippocratic medicine at it’s best in the new world of evidence-based medicine.

Date reviewed: 20 July 2022

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