Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Ernest Wong (A retrospective satirical tale)

Looking back at the exciting past 10 years, I am glad I made the right decision to become a GP.

Ernest Wong: 'I had the luxury of spending time with my family.'
Ernest Wong: 'I had the luxury of spending time with my family.'

I always wanted to be a GP for as long as I can remember, treating the patient holistically and making use of my clinical acumen instead of simply relying on overpriced tests to tell me the answer.

I loved the idea of being a pillar in my community, providing the continuity of care to generations of families, sharing their weal and woe. Of course I was also attracted by the benefits of being a GP, namely the fast run-through career progression, flexible and financially rewarding locum work, and the opportunity to work various jobs around the world!

I had the luxury of spending time with my family

Having completed my GP training, which took me just five years post graduation, I started work as a full-time out-of-hours GP. As an out-of-hours GP in the Welsh countryside, I was paid extremely well. At £1,200 per shift, I was making upwards of £150,000 on an average year. In addition, I had the luxury of spending time with my family and watching my children grow up.

In contrast, some of my classmates who chose the consultant route were struggling with taking advanced degrees on top of their day jobs to increase their competitiveness in order to obtain the coveted National Training Number (NTN), so as to continue working as a trainee for five more years. Of those who got their NTN, some had to uproot their whole family and relocate across the country in order to take up training posts at certain obscure tertiary hospitals. Lastly, I was disappointed to find out that some of my year mates, having been overlooked by their training supervisors for advancement, had given up on their consultant dream and settled for ‘dreaded’ staff grade jobs with significantly lower salary and autonomy.

My income took a nosedive and my working conditions were becoming increasingly unbearable

However, just when I thought I had the perfect job, the NHS decided to drastically slash GP funding whilst setting unrealistic QOF targets for GPs to meet. My income took a nosedive and my working conditions were becoming increasingly unbearable.

Thankfully, my training as a GP gave me many options. Wanting to try something new, I landed a job as a ship’s surgeon onboard a luxury cruise liner. I negotiated for a tax-free eight month contract of £50,000 and room and board for my family to come with me. That was the best eight months we had together as a family, sailing around and exploring the Mediterranean.

Currently, my family and I are happily settled in Perth, Australia, where I am practicing as a GP with a special interest in dermatology. With my Certificate of Completion of Training (CCT) in general practice, I am a fully registered member with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), enjoying the amazing Australian weather and career satisfaction that I would never have imagined almost 10 years ago when I just graduated from medical school!

  • Ernest is a third year student at Cardiff Medical School.

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