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

I have maintained an open-mind at medical school, and have enjoyed each and every one of my clinical attachments so far.

Alice Hurlstone: 'I relish the challenges medicine will bring.'
Alice Hurlstone: 'I relish the challenges medicine will bring.'

To me, this augments my ambition to become a GP, so that I can continue this exposure to a whole variety of different aspects of medicine.

I do understand the attraction a hospital consultant post brings; becoming an expert in a specific field. However, I have never understood the aversion to general practice. I do feel it is too frequently forgotten just how hard it can be for GPs, knowing the responses they generate in the frustrated consultants to whom they are referring their ever-increasingly demanding patients.

Flexibility of general practice is one of its great attractions for me

It must be remembered that GPs are generalists, not specialists. This team approach is the beauty of medicine. Amongst all the stress that comes with the lack of resources and funds, I feel doctors in all specialities must recall the differences between their knowledge, and the knowledge and role of others, and the importance of working together, involving primary, secondary and tertiary care.

Carrying out my paediatric attachment, I could not help feeling sorry for the 50-year-old consultant having to spend his weekend at the hospital away from his family. The flexibility of general practice is one of its great attractions for me. I prioritise having a work-life balance; I feel that having a clear mind and maximum energy is paramount for becoming a good doctor and for practicing good medicine.

Primarily, I want to be able to build relationships with my patients; to follow their journey from presenting complaint to their outcome. I think a lot of people, particularly medics, feel the need to always be able to fix problems. However, from my outset at medical school I’ve known that this is not always possible, and it is important to keep this at the forefront of your mind or you can quickly become disheartened.

However, just listening to a patient can make a huge difference for them. Many colleagues complained about our psychiatry attachment, with one-hour consultations facilitating patients’ 'depressing stories.'. In contrast, I found it fascinating and a privilege to have been given the opportunity to hear such private details of a person’s life.

I imagine hearing that almost one in four GP consultations are regarding mental health issues, yet without the hour long slots to discuss them, discourages many from the specialty. I, however, want to be able to build relationships with my patients to gain their trust, so that I can offer support and attempt to make the best of a situation, and this continuity of care is something I feel general practice will offer. As for being able to do this within a 10-minute time slot? Well I look forward to learning these skills, whilst referring back to my medical school application: 'I relish the challenges medicine will bring'.

  • Alice is a student at Southampton University

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