I decided to become a GP during my year out of training when I was not really sure if I was even going to return to my medical career. However, I realised that general practice had some fantastic benefits for professional development.
After qualifying last year I was excited to finally start my career as a GP and make the most of the opportunities I would have access to.
Before sitting my CSA I already had a job lined up. I knew that I wanted to work as a salaried GP. I felt that for me the benefits of being employed (such as annual leave, sick pay, working with a regular team and having a foundation where I did not continuously move around) outweighed the benefits of working as locum GP.
I currently work in a small practice which I enjoy very much. I work five sessions spread out over two and a half days a week and this allows me to develop other interests outside of clinical medicine. It also allows me time to develop my clinical skills too. I am also a GP tutor which means I lead teaching sessions for medical students and I am one of the first ports of call for any cardiology queries at the surgery.
What is it really like?
In terms of day-to-day work I can say there was not much difference in how I felt when I was a trainee to actually working as a GP. I actually feel less stressed!
Although there is always admin work to do, at previous practices I worked at as a trainee I often felt very overwhelmed with the quantity of work I was asked to do. My current practice can still be busy at times, however for the most part my workload is manageable and as you build more experience the admin you encounter becomes slightly easier to do.
Furthermore, during training you have a lot of additional work to complete such as workplace based assessments, exams and audits so this can easily encroach upon your personal time. I also worked full time as a trainee and so working part time as a GP helps me stay refreshed and I feel that I can now give much more to my patients.
How to prepare before you qualify
One of the key things you can do before you finish training is to decide how you want to work. Do you want to work as a salaried, locum or partner GP, or a combination?
Many people advised me to locum first at a few practices and then see what I wanted to do after this. However, I really felt that accepting the job offer at my current practice was the right thing to do for me.
So decide what is important to you. Do you want the flexibility and pay of working as a locum GP? If so, do you want to be a ‘regular’ locum in two or three practices or do you want to move around more than that? You might decide that working as a locum would be the best option, but just for a limited time depending on your situation.
If you want to eventually become a partner but aren’t ready for that step straight away you may feel that working in a salaried post in a practice would be the best option.
Once you decide how you want to work then have a look around.
Do you want to apply for jobs after you pass your exams? Do you want to register with a locum agency? It can take some time to secure a job somewhere you are happy with so I would suggest thinking about this before you finish training.
Also think about your longer-term career development. What are you interested in?
I am interested in medical education and the practice I work at has recently become a teaching practice. I was told this when I accepted the job and it was a real benefit because it means I have the potential to grow and develop my skills while working here. Will you be able to develop the career in the way you want to at the place you choose to work?
Working as a newly-qualified GP may seem daunting while you are still in training but it can be a fun and exciting time. The key is to take some time to think about your next steps as a GP before you qualify because then you will be ready for the opportunities that arise.
- Dr Patrice Baptiste is a London-based portfolio GP. She has also founded a medical careers company called DreamSmartTutors.