Chris Ellis: Why I'm choosing general practice

Since starting medicine there have been few specialties which have taken my interest as much as general practice.

I have always enjoyed the approach and encouragement to ask more and get to know the person sitting in front of me, to constantly be inquisitive. Irrespective of the location, demographics or organisation of the practice, the fundamentals of the work is what I have found enjoyable and engaging.

I have a great sense of interest when a patient first walks into the clinic room. I feel the same sense of anticipation just before opening a new book. Before anything is said or examined the reason for the appointment and their story are limitless.

It could literally be anything. A patient could attend because they are really struggling with bereavement or that they’ve got an irritating perpetual cough or that they would like to start trying to conceive. I love that in general practice all of these are legitimate reasons for coming.

No other specialty can offer this amazing diversity or clinical variety.

Unique challenges

General practice is the first port of call for most of the population and being this frontline brings unique challenges. I feel the challenge of diagnosis in general practice is the closest to the essence of medicine.

In a short space of time we are required to take a comprehensive history, examine the patient and consider our differentials, all in the absence of new investigations or scans. Problem solving in this environment is both challenging and exciting, relying on the timeless foundation of medicine.

Contrary to stereotypes of general practice, I have found the approach to this complex problem solving very team-orientated. The team will often incorporate additional GPs, potentially with special interests, or many other members of the clinical team. Importantly I believe this approach brings the patient to the front and centre, stressing the holistic view of their care.

In other specialties the focus can often be too directed on attaining a diagnosis and the medical approach of care. I want to be part of medicine which revolves less around their condition and more around making the patient a person.

The relationship between a patient and their GP is a special and privileged one. We are part of the precious few who are fortunate enough to be included in the complexities of a person’s life, often aspects of which many friends and family are not privy to. This level of trust is unique and I think what makes GP so fascinating.

Trust is nurtured and developed over time with the opportunity to see a patient over a number of years through a number of conditions being a major pull for general practice. This continuity of care is quite exclusive to this speciality and ultimately results in improved relationships and patient care.

When asked, I have always enjoyed explaining why I want to be a GP. With each discussion I seem to find another reason why I will be choosing general practice for my future.

  • Chris Ellis is a 4th year medical student at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry

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