Why GP? Why medicine? Why surgery?
It’s a question we’re asked all the way from day one in medical school, up to consultant level. Why this branch of medicine? As we’ve progressed, I’ve seen my friends change their minds repeatedly on what they want to be ‘when they’re older.’ I consider myself lucky that for the most part I’ve known I wanted to become a GP, but even I have had moments when I’m less sure. I’m going to take you through how I decided to try and help you make your choice, and hopefully encourage you to pick #TeamGP.
I wanted to be a GP ever since I started medical school and nothing at medical school changed my mind. Then I started as a Foundation doctor and found that I enjoyed lots of specialties, even through Coronavirus! For me, the big stumbling block has been general medicine, and there was a point a few months ago when I started questioning if GP was for me.
At the time I felt guilty for thinking this, as I had been so sure on what I wanted to do. But it’s ok to change your mind. Ultimately you want to have a career that you find fulfilling, not just one that you feel is expected of you.
My first placement
So how did I overcome this? I’m very practical so for me it was a combination of lists, and experience. My first placement in F2 was GP, so as I had more time off and more regular hours I decided to do a fair amount of locum shifts on medicine – on the assessment unit, a range of medicine wards, and the palliative unit, which is an area of medicine I am particularly interested in.
This helped me look at the pros and cons of medicine and GP. What I found was that, although medicine seemed more glamorous and exciting, treating more acutely unwell and unstable patients, that wasn’t enough for me, and the cons greatly outweighed the pros. Conversely, spending time in GP reminded me of all the things I loved about it. There are the obvious pros that any GP will tell you – better hours, not being on call (therefore more family friendly work-life balance), and a higher salary sooner. However, I could live with on-calls for a job I loved, so this alone wouldn’t have convinced me. What really swayed me was the patients, and the relationship you could create with them – even as a hospital consultant this is difficult to replicate.
Building trust with patients
As an F2 in GP I had patients seeing me regularly, and even requesting to see me because I had built up trust with them. That is what medicine is all about for me – helping real people who trust your opinion and return to you because of the relationship you have created. As doctors we have a unique position where people trust us with their most intimate problems, and let us into their lives, and this is never truer than in GP. As a GP you have the unique opportunity to watch your patients grow and improve with your help. You are there when they need you most. There is also the opportunity to have special interests – possibly palliative medicine for me – go into leadership, teaching, management and many more depending on your interests.
I am not oblivious to the challenges faced in GP – longer days, more admin, less ‘teamwork’ (although if you pick a sociable practice this is less of an issue), and unfortunately you can’t ‘fix’ everyone. However, with everything I’ve experienced from both sides, I am now more convinced than ever that GP is the career path for me – the career that will give me the most satisfaction, that will make me happy to go to work, and proud to be a doctor.
So pick the specialty that makes you feels like that. The one where you enjoy going to work, and where you leave work feeling like you’ve made a difference. For me that's #TeamGP.
About the writer
Dr Rebecca Clegg, FY2, studied at University of Nottingham medical school and Trent Foundation School.