Topic: Meet our President

Medical Council of NSW green image with portrait of president in frame

We have welcomed a new President to the Medical Council of NSW, Dr Jennie Kendrick AM (MBBS FRACGP MPH GAICD). Between caring for patients as a GP in Sydney, and training junior doctors, Jennie has now added a new role to her diverse practise. We recently sat down with Jennie to find out more about her time with the Medical Council and what’s to come in her new leadership role.   

You have accepted the President’s role on top of your own clinical practice and involvement in medical education. What was your inspiration for entering regulatory work?

It’s been more than 20 years since I first became involved. At that time I was working for the RACGP Training Program and was contacted by the Medical Board to sit on a Medical Tribunal. It was a new experience for me and I found it really interesting and also realised the value of input in such hearings from colleagues who understand the context and variety and challenges of clinical practice. I then continued my involvement as a hearing member. In 2015 I became the RACGP nominee to the Council of the Medical Council. 

How have you experienced these first few months as President? Have you noticed any shared insights between your regulatory involvement and clinical practice?

It’s been busy ! A lot of things happening in the regulatory environment to keep across.  In addition, the Council has been working hard implementing strategies aimed at optimising consistency, improving communication and reducing o times lines for decisions.  As to a connection between regulatory work and clinical practice  -  in both cases you are trying to balance the safe care of patients with innate challenges of clinical practice. As a clinician you are constantly trying to ensure good patient care. If and when errors occur, or patients are not happy with our management you have to reflect on whether you could have done things differently – Was there a system error? Did I make a mistake? and if so why and how can I avoid that happening again?  It’s a similar approach when assessing complaints at the Medical Council even though you’re looking at the situation from the outside. 

Can you share some reflections on your regulatory work so far?

It’s encouraging to work with a team of colleagues both clinicians and lay members who are really focussed on trying to objectively understand and analyse the issues that lead to complaint and how to support safe patient care. It’s also good to see  the majority of doctors who have been the subject of a complaint have already done their own self-reflection and where appropriate have made changes to enhance patient care. There are of course a small number of complaints that indicate for a variety of reasons the need for further supports or conditions in the interests of patient safety but these are a small minority overall. I’m very mindful of the stress the regulatory process can create for those involved and pleased that we are currently working on strategies to reduce this as far as possible.

Do you have any advice for medical practitioners looking to move into leadership roles?

Talk to others in leadership roles, think about having a mentor and whether you might benefit from any courses on leadership given there are some differences in approach compared with pure clinical practice.

The past few years have revealed a need for an increasingly resilient and flexible heath workforce in NSW, what have been your key lessons working though this challenging environment, and have you had an opportunity to apply these lessons to your work with the Medical Council?

There has been enormous change in clinical practice since I first entered the workforce and the pace of change is ever increasing. Keeping up to date not only with changes in medicine but also in technology and societal and patient expectations is a significant challenge.  Having good connections with colleagues to share ideas and debrief with is helpful. Finding the balance in work and identifying the supports you need to facilitate resilience and flexibility to function optimally. At the Medical Council we unfortunately see some doctors trying to do too much work in this complex environment, who don’t have enough time for self-care and reflection and at times suffering burnout.  This has a negative impact on their own wellbeing but can also negatively impact patient care.