Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Alice Hanton

As with the classic medical school interview question: 'Why medicine?'

Alice Hanton: 'GPs do indispensible, rewarding and hugely varied work that I can’t wait to do myself.'
Alice Hanton: 'GPs do indispensible, rewarding and hugely varied work that I can’t wait to do myself.'

It is difficult to explain exactly why I am interested in general practice, yet it is a speciality that I have been drawn to ever since I became interested in medicine.

Unlike some of my peers who have their sights set on plastic surgery or anaesthetics, I do not feel much desire to go into the more supposedly ‘glamorous’ specialities (if such a thing really exists.) Patients see doctors for any number of reasons, big or small, and I believe one of the exciting and fascinating qualities of general practice is the scope to deal with the whole spectrum.

GPs can be the first to spot potentially fatal conditions   

GPs experience a variety of work like no other specialism; from newborns to the elderly, chronic to acute, meaning it is impossible to get bored. Personally this is what most appeals about general practice and is something that I am constantly amazed by on my primary care placement; you really never know what will walk through the door next.

The belief that it is ‘all coughs, colds and sick notes’ is, of course, totally wrong; GPs can be the first to spot potentially fatal conditions, and this, along with their long-term management of chronic disease, is truly life saving work. The reward of developing a long-term relationship with a patient (in a way that is rare outside general practice) is one of the big bonuses of this career path; knowing someone well is not only hugely beneficial in deciding a care plan, but is more generally a happy and satisfying experience.

One of the doctors I observed on placement said that he became a GP because wanted to know a little about a lot of things, rather than a lot about a little thing. (He also liked the potential this gave him for self-diagnosis!) By nature I am a generalist, keen to try as many things as possible and keep my options open rather than quickly focusing on single area, naturally making general practice a serious consideration for me.

In light of the constant changes and recent uncertainty surrounding the future of the NHS, a GP’s ability to see structural or organisational problems within their surgery and effectively implement tangible change is extremely appealing, as is the prospect of working in a more constant team and having more autonomy over your work.

Around 90% of patient interaction with the NHS is in a GP’s surgery, meaning that the actions of GPs in terms of public health and health promotion have a huge impact on the population. Effective preventative care is vital to the survival of the NHS, so the scope that GPs have to provide this, and to implement serious change in health and health beliefs, is really important and exciting work. In stark contrast to the bad press they can receive, GPs do indispensible, rewarding and hugely varied work that I can’t wait to do myself in the future.

  • Alice is a student at Leeds University

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