‘General practice,’ I reply, waiting for the usual eye roll and sigh that this response generates. This is normally followed by a long tale about how there are a whole host of other specialties which they believe my life would be better spent doing.
With this negativity all too often being the response from other doctors, coupled with the bad press GPs tend to be on the receiving end of, it’s a wonder any medical student wants to be a GP these days? However, I believe general practice has many significant advantages over other specialties.
I love the variety that general practice provides
I don’t want to spend my whole life concentrating on just one part of the human body and just one demographic of the population. I love the variety that general practice provides and the fact that you never know what the next patient will walk through the door with. It’s nice to be kept on your toes! There aren’t many other medical specialities where you can go from treating a toddler with otitis media one minute, to reviewing an elderly patient with heart failure the next.
The breadth of knowledge a GP requires in order to do their job is vast, and often having a slightly less detailed knowledge of a wide range of conditions is preferable to having an infinite knowledge of just a handful. With more complex patients, having this knowledge of all their medical conditions allows a GP to be able to understand the whole picture of how the patient’s health is affecting them. This understanding enables GPs to help reduce the impact of a patient’s conditions on his or her day-to-day life.
GPs gain the privilege of being someone a patient trusts
A further benefit is the way a GP gets to know their patients and their families over a period of years. Specialist doctors often only meet their patients a few times, so rarely get to develop this long-lasting bond with their patients. Instead it is GPs who gain the privilege of being someone a patient trusts enough to consult about concerns they would not discuss with even their closest family.
Most students, myself included, chose to apply to medical school on the basis that we: a) enjoy talking to people, b) want to help people, and c) find the workings of the human body fascinating. Based on this, general practice really does tick every box and I cannot imagine a better career path to take. Going back to our friend the surgeon, next time I get the roll of the eyes I can be quietly smug in the knowledge that I’ve chosen the best career path.
Abigail Wild is a fourth year medical student at Birmingham University.
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