Vicki Robertson: Why I'm choosing general practice

'Hello, doctor's surgery, Vicki speaking, how may I help you?' is a greeting that often automatically escapes me on answering my own mobile phone.

After four summers of working as a medical receptionist in a GP practice, this, plus my usual script of 'Could you tell me the nature of the emergency?' or 'Our blood results will be available for you from 2pm' roll off the tongue now.

And despite medical receptionists possibly being second only to traffic wardens as the most hated professionals on the planet, I value my time on the desk as highly as the medical degree I am graduating with this summer.

I began work as a receptionist at 18, the summer before starting medical school. Incredibly naïve, I thought the job would be a synch and laughed at my school friends for their childish minimum-wage waitressing stints.

However, after a week of refusing same-day appointments and battling patients requesting staggering doses of benzodiazepines, I would have happily gone back to washing dishes in my local pub to escape the frontline of the NHS.

Angry patients repeatedly telling me how under-qualified I was to help them and those demanding emergency appointments for trivial ailments constituted my 8am-4pm existence and in my first summer, this taster of the medical profession had already made me seriously question my career choice.

But on my last day of work that summer, one regular patient came to the desk. She was a lovely lady and when she approached the desk that day, I noticed that there was no appointment for her and my heart sank at the thought of putting her through the inconvenience of rescheduling. But she simply smiled, wished me luck with my studies and handed me a card and a box of chocolates.

I was stunned that she even knew who I was, let alone felt compelled to give me such a send-off.This gesture made me realise how much of an impact general practice can have on people, especially those in regular contact with the service, on a truly personal level.

There is no other profession that reaches people in quite the same way and does so from cradle to grave.

General practice doesn’t just treat diseases, it treats people and this human approach is what makes the career so rewarding and unique.

This simple moment made the entire summer of fighting on the NHS frontline worthwhile, putting everything into perspective and kept me returning every year with the aim of one day making it to the consultation room.

  • Vicki Robertson is a final year medical student at the University of Glasgow

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