Megan Hutchinson: Why I'm choosing general practice

Why be a GP? A career in general practice stands out for many reasons. From the working environment to the day-to-day cases, becoming a GP has many attractions.

The main appeal to me is the wide range of patients you come into contact with. From coughs and colds, to two-week waits and chronic conditions, you never know what will walk in next.

And for cynics who claim that 'GP is an endless parade of the mundane and repetitive’, for me no two patients are ever the same. Different demographics, health beliefs and presentations mean that even the common cold becomes new with every history.

Secondly, as doctors we strive to help our patients and improve outcomes. How better to achieve this than to stop disease before it starts? Primary care means primary prevention; empowering patients to take control of their health and make positive changes. I enjoy educating patients - sharing knowledge, directing them to resources and enabling them to make informed choices are all essential for people to take ownership of their wellbeing.

GP-patient relationship

But preventive medicine isn’t the only way GPs affect health. As the primary access point, GPs and the GP-patient relationship are central to how the public interact with the entire NHS. Rapport and trust are the cornerstones to patient adherence and engagement in services; with a strong relationship, patients are more likely to present earlier and follow advice, thus improving outcomes.

Additionally, being the first professional most people present to, your actions shape their patient journey - and you'll see them come full circle back to the community, having followed and supported them the whole way.

Being patients’ main doctor also allows GPs a deeper insight into their lives. Not only are GPs privileged to have such an intimate view, but by forming long-term relationships they understand their patients better; adapting their approach in the knowledge of character, religious or cultural views and past medical history.

But it's not all about the patients. As a GP you have the chance to build and adapt your career throughout your entire working life. From public health to specialty accreditations, the opportunities are endless. Work with NHS 111, start a new outreach project or volunteer your time overseas - just like their patients, no two GPs are identical. And by working and living in the same community, you get to see the difference you make.

Finally, the close-knit interdisciplinary teams formed in general practice only add to the job. In hospitals staff often rotate between placements, but in the community teams tend to be more stable. This means you can form long-lasting relationships and always have someone to ask for help or to discuss difficult cases with.

General practice encompasses all the reasons I chose to practice medicine - interacting with patients, daily variety and the ability to shape my career to my interests. No other medical specialty seems to offer such a comprehensive career, and I cannot imagine myself pursuing any other path.

  • Megan Hutchinson is a fifth year medical student at Imperial College London

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