People are quick to offer more apparent perks: ‘It’s a better lifestyle’, ‘The salary is good’, or, ‘You have a constant supply of tea’. But for me there are many more reasons why general practice is the best career.
I first realised that general practice was definitely for me after a consultation during my fourth year of medical school. An elderly gentleman had booked an urgent appointment at the start of the day. As I sat waiting for him to arrive, I pondered over the idea of an ‘urgent’ appointment. Would this be my first heart attack patient? Would we be rushing him into hospital?
Just by listening and sympathising, I had impacted on this gentleman’s life
When he arrived and sat in front of me to tell me about the two weeks of a runny nose and sore throat, part of me was disappointed. But as I listened to him speak, I suddenly realised that maybe it wasn’t the cold that had bought him in to see me. As he talked about his wife’s recent death, his isolation and not leaving the house, I realised that maybe there was no-one else to listen. There was no rare diagnosis, exciting medical signs or dramatic cardiac arrest. It was a lonely old man who didn’t leave with a cure for his runny nose, but nonetheless left feeling better. Suddenly I realised that, just by listening and sympathising, I had impacted on this gentleman’s life.
My long placement in my fifth year reinforced my love of general practice and showed me even more reasons why I want to follow it as a career. I loved the variety of patients: from the rambling 90-year-olds, to the five-year-olds running riot in the consulting room, to the thrilling enigma of the patient attending with a complaint for the first time. Moreover, as a GP you are in an incredible position to be part of people’s lives and families. The continuity of care means that you are with them through all of life’s events, not just illnesses, and this leads to the privilege of having a real insight into their lives. You can express genuine concern for patients and understand more fully the factors which impact their views and behaviours. So, rather than merely prescribing medication, a GP can inspire and direct patients into ownership of their own healthcare. All doctors have medical knowledge: there is a real challenge in using that to influence people’s decisions and empower them take care of their own health.
If you do all that you can, general practice gives you the opportunity to see a variety of patients, experience exciting diagnostic challenges, have patient continuity, be in a position to holistically treat people, and genuinely improve their lives. And all this with a constant flow of tea.
Keziah Ruth Erde is a fifth year medical student at Birmingham University
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