10 reasons why I chose general practice.
1. My GP
It’s a pretty special feeling when patients put their trust and health needs in your care. I recently was out and about on the weekend when a patient from a previous practice came up to me and said to her friend ‘This is my GP’. Patients feel reassured when they know they have a go-to person for any health concerns. It’s such a privilege for patients to open up and tell you their biggest fears or concerns. You are their GP and you play an important role in their life.
2. Anything’s possible
Endless variety. I couldn’t possibly imagine focusing on only one system of the body. Fear not…this never happens in general practice. Just yesterday I consulted with patients from practically almost every decade. I sadly diagnosed a patient with metastatic breast cancer, treated a fungal nappy rash, performed four cervical smears, undertook two health assessments, commenced two women on statins, counselled a male on his STI, examined a six-week-old and laughed so much at a 96-year old’s jokes. I love that I never know what might happen next.
3. Parentally friendly
I’m not just talking about all the lovely parents that I meet. The reality is that being a parent and being a doctor working in general practice can be successfully combined. I’m proof of that having two young children. You actually can work 9 til 5pm or part-time and there is generally no on-call…the reality of a civilised medical job! So many of my fellow registrars are also mothers or fathers. Some have ended up in GP land because their previous speciality was not accommodating towards their family’s needs….and they tell me they’ve never looked back! The grass is definitely greener on the other side!
4. Detective vs Doctor
I love putting on my detective hat, interviewing the patient, examining the evidence, gathering expert specialist opinions, coordinating my approach with investigations and then channelling my inner Sherlock to make a diagnosis. You are at the front line of healthcare. It’s actually quite a thrill to be able to make a rare diagnosis and then be congratulated by your specialist colleagues!
5. Minimal sleep deprivation
This is never an issue for me. I don’t get called during the night as urban general practice has virtually no on-call. Only once in the past two years have I been called up after hours, which was by the lab at 6pm for a low haemoglobin; a result that could have waited until the next day to discuss with the patient. So no midnight calls or trips into the hospital at 2am for me. If only my children were more considerate then I really would have uninterrupted sleep!
6. Time to diagnose
I don’t lay awake at night wondering about a patient’s injury or whether I made the right diagnosis. General practice fosters an amazing ability to recall patients. There’s time to think. You line up your differential diagnosis, perhaps order a specific test and then see the patient in a week. New symptoms might develop or disappear. A new sense of clarity awaits and with results in hand you can provide the correct judgement. Or if you’re still stuck, there is the opportunity to refer on to physician colleagues.
Usually once a day I’ll have a patient present with a mental health issue. Mental health is a big issue in our community, and as a GP you’ll be faced with some challenging patients where you can make a real difference. What other speciality allows you to do breathing exercises and mindfulness in a 15-minute consult!
Sub-specialisation in general practice is possible both as an extended skills term as a registrar and also post-fellowship. Skin cancer, cosmetic work, sports medicine, travel medicine, sexual health, palliative care…the opportunities are endless. I think this is often a forgotten point when considering GP, as there really is the chance to work part or all of your time in a specialised area within general practice.
9. Become a professor
You may be wondering where I’m heading with this…but general practice provides the ideal foundation for developing a career in public health, research or academia. The ACRRM and RACGP actively encourage research and this has been identified as an area of expansion. In this day and age, when we are so guided by evidence, there is always a need to ensure that we are giving our patients the best possible care. I’m fortunate to be undertaking a paid 12-month position as an academic GP registrar at present, looking at skin cancer education in general practice. Just one of the many opportunities in general practice!
10. Teamwork & support
In general practice there is so much teamwork. I feel constantly supported and never feel like it’s just me and the patient. I work with a great team of nurses, administrative staff, allied health workers and finally other amazing GPs. If I’m not sure about a rash, or how to handle a difficult consultation involving bad news, or what the referral process is for a complex auto-immune condition, then I just call the experienced GP next door! Support surrounds you in general practice.
If you are interested in general practice, applications are now open for the 2019 Australian General Practice Training (AGPT) Intake, and close Monday, 30 April 2018 at 10am AEST. Visit our How to Apply page for further details.