Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Brett Roberts

Cardiology is a fascinating medical speciality; but so too is neurology, along with paediatrics, psychiatry and endocrinology.

Brett Roberts: 'I find all of the trades interesting and rewarding, so why limit myself to just one?'
Brett Roberts: 'I find all of the trades interesting and rewarding, so why limit myself to just one?'

By choosing one path, you have effectively lost the option of all of the others. This is just one of the reasons why I want to be a GP. The patients have such a variety of complaints requiring an equally huge breadth of knowledge; you are not restricted to the conditions associated with only one specialty. What an achievement it would be to have diagnosed bipolar disorder, osteoarthritis and COPD, and then help a young mother come to terms with her multiple sclerosis, all by mid-morning.

Having recently started my clinical years, I have already come to love the excitement of diagnosis, whereby one attempts to assemble the patient’s history and examination findings into something tangible.

As a GP, you may be the only healthcare professional this patient is seeing

This is something that GPs are experts in, and experience daily. Whilst diagnosis is part of all medical specialities, it forms such an integral part of each and every day as a GP.  However, there is also so much more to general practice; a patient is seen as a person, not just an illness or collection of symptoms. It is this holistic approach that is often lost in the chaos of the ward round. As a GP, you may be the only healthcare professional this patient is seeing; providing advice and support to this person is a privilege, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

GPs are often described as the ‘gatekeepers’ of the NHS, tasked with the responsibility of filtering through those patients who require specialist care and treating those who can be managed at the practice.

This role is pivotal for the system to function, yet it is currently experiencing a recruitment crisis. If anything, this makes me want to choose primary care more, as I feel the future of general practice is exciting.

There is increasing recognition of the need to provide quality care to those with comorbidities; after all, this is truly the realm of the GP. It requires excellent communication skills, dynamic prioritisation of needs during changing circumstances and continual optimisation of the care provided.

As patients’ needs become ever more complex, the need for trained generalists to provide better, more individualised care increases. This is something I feel passionate about and which further drives my ambition to enter primary care.

Perhaps some are put off general practice by a perceived lack of challenge, but this could not be further from the truth. To become a great GP, it not only demands an expansive medical knowledge but skills which are not taught: inquisitiveness, a genuine compassion for providing quality healthcare and being unafraid to reflect on successes and mistakes alike.

Alternatively, perhaps others do not choose primary care because they believe that by doing so, you are forced to be a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. To this I reply: I find all of the trades interesting and rewarding, so why limit myself to just one?

  • Brett is a student at King’s College, London.

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