Claire Walker: Why I'm choosing general practice

As someone who has enjoyed many specialties throughout medical school choosing one was always going to be tough.

In my ideal career I wouldn’t just be treating patients as they got ill but would play a key role in preventing those conditions from occurring in the first place. I would be able to care for people across the generations, encompassing a range of acute and long term medical conditions and it would be a job where I could really get to know my patients over many years.

The answer had been there all along – general practice. 

We are often taught rigid frameworks for assessing patients, but being a GP requires lateral thinking. Every aspect of a patient’s life matters not just their condition. My most satisfying moments as a student have been taking time to really understand people’s social circumstances and developing a solution that works for them. There is no other area of medicine where I have seen such a focus on shared decision making and putting the patient’s agenda right at the heart of care.

GPs have the privilege of being invited into people’s homes and as far as possible facilitating their recovery in familiar surroundings rather than hospital. They are uniquely positioned to be the doctor who knows a person’s whole story, and the rapport that develops means they get to be part of the big milestones in people’s lives, whether it be caring for women in pregnancy or supporting people in their final days. They see life at its best and its worst all in the space of a single working day.

Continuity of care

Then there is the satisfaction of being able to provide continuity of care. For me there is nothing more frustrating than assessing a patient and then handing them over to someone else, never to find out what happens to them. General practice allows you to follow up your patients and to learn from them.

Whilst the job comes with many challenges, it is also exciting and hugely varied. A GP must think on their feet and be comfortable with managing a degree of uncertainty as they cannot rely on arrays of instant bloods tests or imaging to make their diagnosis. 

There are also numerous ways a GP can choose to shape their career. As someone who enjoys rural medicine, general practice will give me the chance to pursue this as well as endless opportunities to get involved with teaching, developing a special interest or working with the CCG, to name just a few.

I’m excited to reach my potential in this wonderful specialty that encompasses the whole of medicine in a patient-centred approach. Being an expert generalist will allow me to do my very best for the patients I meet but I also hope to inspire my colleagues and future students that general practice is a dynamic and rewarding career at the forefront of medicine.

  • Claire Walker is a fifth year medical student at the University of Sheffield

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