GPs choose between private or public practice and whether they want to work in a remote, rural, or metropolitan location. There are options for every lifestyle, family, and financial situation.
Individual or private practice
Some GPs choose to set up their own private general practice. Information on this is at the end of this page.
You can also register as a sole trader, meaning you will be able to work and be paid under your Australian Business Number (ABN) as a locum, in your own practice, or as a contractor. This option is preferable for some because it involves less paperwork than setting up a company.
A study from the Medical Journal of Australia found that more than half of all GPs in Australia, particularly those who work in metropolitan areas, work in group general practices. These can be medical centres, private practices or hospitals. This option offers diversity in patient population and provides more opportunities for professional development and growth. Jobs in group practices are advertised frequently, so it’s just a matter of deciding which one is right for you. Have a look at our career guidance section for more information.
Each state’s Department of Health can also be an attractive option for training and working. It is possible to start your career here while studying, and work your way through the career structure in place to eventually become a GP or Specialist. For example with the Queensland Department of Health, you will have access to a wide array of employment benefits such as salary sacrifice options, relocation grants, regular training and professional development and more. Most importantly, you’ll be busy. Public hospitals are not lacking in patients, and you’ll have your work cut out for you in any field.
Depending on your situation, you may have the flexibility to participate in locum work. This work will generally be short-term and located in regional, remote or rural areas of need. Working in the same practice or hospital every day is certainly stable, but if you crave a little variety, becoming a locum might just suit you. It can also help you gain experience in specialties outside your ordinary work, such as emergency services or palliative care.
If this interests you, there are a number of external groups focused on locum work; it’s just a matter of registering with one of them and applying from there.
How do I set up my own general practice?
When you complete your registrar training, you’ll have a couple of options available to you. Public hospitals might be your calling, or you might prefer to join an existing private practice. But you also might want to set up your own practice. There are a lot of factors to consider when setting up your own general practice, so here are some tips to get you on your way.
Where should I set up my practice?
When choosing where to set up your practice, you’ll need to consider not only what you need from your work but also the needs of your family and the community. As with any business, you need a market. Ask yourself, ‘Does this community need a GP?’ The community might be a metropolitan suburb, a regional town or even a remote community. Look to see whether there is an established practice where you could work or that you could purchase from the current owners.
You also need to think about how location will affect your patient population. Think about how you will market and promote your practice to attract patients and how you can engage with the community. You may want to consider a website and social media and marketing campaigns. If the population is older, then flyers or appearances at local clubs and events may be more effective.
Planning private practice finances
One of the first steps in starting your own practice is writing a business plan. Think about why you’re going into business, whether it’s right for you and the area and if it will be financially viable for you to start from scratch. Draw up a tentative budget, and include any property, equipment and license fees you may incur as well as any additional costs such as furnishings, staff, software and stationery.
The administrative task of setting up a general practice is similar to that of setting up any small business in Australia. You will need an Australian Business Number (ABN) and to register your company name. If you are setting up as a sole trader, you do not need to register a company name. But before you do any of this, speak to a business adviser or mentor. You can also access a great deal of information about starting a business on the Australian Government’s business website.
You may also choose to register with and be accredited by the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) or the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM). This will lend you credibility and help you establish your reputation.
If you plan to work in private practice, you’ll need to apply for a Medicare provider number to enable patients to claim rebates for your services under the Medicare program. You can find more information on how to set up your practice directly from the Medicare website. Patients in many communities rely on this program for medical care, so registering with Medicare is vital for a GP.
How will this affect my family?
It’s important that however you work as a GP that is suits all members of your family. Consider how relocation might affect your partner’s career, or your children’s education. If you are a sole trader or work in a practice on your own, you may choose to run it from home. If you intend to do this and you have a partner or family, think and talk about how this might affect them. It may be better to separate your work like from your home life and have two different addresses.
Check out our Queensland town profiles and information on rural life for Australian GPs for more information.