Dr Michael Murray, career long regional and rural doctor talks about the isolation and restrictions to learning on GPs
As the Mental Health Professionals Network’s (MHPN) main webinar facilitator, Dr Michael Murray knows as well as anyone the power of integrated communication. And as a career-long regional and rural doctor, he is profoundly aware of the isolation and restrictions to learning that GPs in the far corners of Australia endure.
In a recent interview he examined the prospects for online learning, especially in regional, rural and remote settings, and came to one surprising conclusion.
Contrary to expectations, direct feedback from webinar exit surveys reveals that many city clinicians, like their bush counterparts, also feel isolated from specialist expertise.
He sees online teaching and interaction as the way of the future for specialised learning, and not only for rural and remote practitioners.
Webinars more intimate than traditional methods
Compared to traditional face-to-face teaching, he views online information sharing as more intimate than listening to a presentation in a lecture theatre or hotel conference room.
“Styles of learning are changing and people accept that online education is just as important and relevant as traditional methods.
“For regional, rural and remote clinicians, no longer having to travel for hours or days to attend a conference, of which only a part might be relevant, is now a reality. It is beginning to emerge that people are gaining a great deal more than they otherwise would have.
“They can look forward to monthly (or more frequent) webinars of great relevance as opposed to an annual event over a day or two that may not cover anywhere near the same ground’ he says.
Proof in numbers
The proof is in the number of applicants wishing to participate. MHPN webinars always attract hundreds, with a recent event generating more than 1,200 registrations. The number consistently grows with successive webinars.
What makes MHPN webinars different? For a start, the expert panel is drawn from different mental health disciplines, rather than one only. That attracts an interdisciplinary audience. This, and the case study approach, encourages interaction between the panellists and audience, which in turn promotes collaboration.
Incentives for collaboration
Choice of subject, depth of content, frequency of presentation, and simplicity of technology will all continue to improve. As they do, so the incentives for collaboration will build as clinicians further grasp the value of sharing.