Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Annie Ritson

When I consider the people who inspire me most they are the listeners, the self-aware, those who go beyond themselves to meet others to comfort and guide.

Annie Ritson: 'Extending empathy towards the patient opens the door to their life.'
Annie Ritson: 'Extending empathy towards the patient opens the door to their life.'

They are the people who grapple with an argument or piece of evidence and only on balance will act; they are the change makers.

When translated into a medical career this combination of qualities looks very much to me like an excellent GP. My hope is that a career in primary care would be the best means to learn and live these qualities.

Extending empathy towards the patient opens the door to their life

The diversity of this skill set required and honed by primary care doctors defines the challenge of becoming an expert generalist. It is this challenge that is persuading me towards general practice. I remember stating I thrived on a challenge during the interview for medical school, and this remains true. Provided we have the reserve, and the means to maintain that reserve, challenge is a driver. Challenge it is what moves us through a fulfilling career and staves of the stagnant cynicism we might otherwise encounter.

Decision making by weighing up a wide range of patient, population and scientific factors is another domain of the expert generalist. The understanding a primary care doctor must have of what lies beneath the iceberg tip of his or her consultation is phenomenal. Extending empathy towards the patient opens the door to their life, their family, their health beliefs and their motivations for behaviour change.

Critical consideration of the scientific basis of disease, diagnosis and management is another dimension. The population as a whole: how best to effect change and promote health within a wider community is yet another area to consider. All the while keeping a humble self-awareness and facilitating the patient’s own input into the decision making.

A GP is called to join his or her patient in navigating the complexities of human well-being and in doing so guide a person to make real, lasting changes that improve length and perhaps more importantly quality of life.

This cause must be worth dedicating a career and a lifetime to.

When I grow up I want to be wise,

Not merely bookish, beige and learned,

But the kind of wise,

With open eyes,

Brave and humble enough to wash the feet

And there, the people meet.

  • Annie Ritson is a student at Cardiff University

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