When and what made you decide you wanted to be a GP?
As a student, I did a ‘Special Study Module’ with Dr Dickie in Stornoway, and this along with other undergraduate experience attracted me to the holistic and pragmatic nature of general practice. Subsequently, I developed my interest in rural practice, and became more attracted to this form of GP during the latter stages of my GP training.
As well as the ability to provide continuity of care, and practice across a wide spectrum of clinical challenge, I also liked the idea of getting a CCT early and achieving relatively rapid professional autonomy. I didn’t think I’d get bored too easily in general practice, and so far that’s true!
What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone considering general practice?
Get out and see it! Try and find a practice that welcomes students – most do – and get some placement or elective experience. Also remember that you are likely to call on more undergraduate and postgraduate specialty experience, so use that to motivate your studies and further qualifications. There’s a wide spectrum of practice within GP, from traditional GP work in different settings (for example cities or rural) as well as ‘outside the box’ jobs such as ship, aviation and space medicine.
Find a mentor early on, and learn some general skills in facilitating a portfolio career of interests – it’s one way to stay sane and resilient, and so the more abilities that you have with things like social media, public speaking and media work, will all help.
Don’t be afraid to say you’re attracted to general practice either – and listen to but rationalise the thoughts of anyone trying to put you off!
What is your proudest achievement in general practice?
I was called to a road accident several years ago, and was involved in treating one of our patients who was badly injured. Subsequently, they came back to me for help with some psychological challenges that they faced as a result of the accident. Over the following year, due to an exceptionally long waiting list for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), I read up about it and successfully used some basic principles to help our patient through some difficult times.
That was professionally satisfying, and it reflects the wide spectrum of rural healthcare – from ABCDE trauma management, to providing long term psychological therapy particularly when other services are not resourced well enough to react quickly.
What do you love most about being in general practice?
No day is the same. There is constant intellectual stimulation, and loads of opportunities to develop personal interests. Sometimes it can take a leap of faith to follow those interests, but it’s a hugely rewarding, challenging and satisfying field of work that allows lots of flexibility and autonomy of practice.
I also like the nature of GP teaching – it has a real ‘apprenticeship’ feel and the one-to-one tutoring means that it’s easy to see our students develop over the duration of their placement. That’s very satisfying.
Where else can you find a mixture of clinical care, teaching, managing people, running a business and forming some amazing professional relationships with colleagues and patients?
What was your biggest influence in becoming a GP?
I have had a lot of helpful encouragement from excellent role models throughout my career. They have fuelled my own aim of being an effective tutor and mentor to students and trainees who come to Arran.
One experience stands out. I was on a third year GP placement with Dr Euan Patterson of Govan Practice in Glasgow. During a car journey for a home visit, Euan inspired me about the value of listening to the patient’s story more than anyone or anything else. The value of narrative-based medicine – combined with hypothesis-driven use of investigations - has continued to intrigue me. Despite all the tests and scans that are available, so much can be done by an effective consultation – often through words alone - and this is particularly important for rural practice.
The value of car-journey student tutorials has stuck with me too, which is handy as driving to our Lochranza surgery here takes over 30 minutes… perfect for some great tutorial discussions!
What do you enjoy doing outside general practice?
Arran is a great place to access the outdoors – I try to get out as much as possible, for walking, running, sailing, canoeing or occasionally even water skiing! It’s a great place for artists or photographers – plenty of inspiration. The transport links aren’t too bad for getting away by ferry, providing it’s not too windy. I’m a keen photographer and Arran offers lots of opportunities to develop skills with landscape and wildlife photography in particular.
About the writer
Dr David Hogg is GP at Dunbar Medical Centre and formerly of Arran Medical Group on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. He studied at the University of Glasgow. His interests include IT, technology-enhanced care, emergency care, community hospitals, undergraduate teaching, mental health and child health.