Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Lucy Arnold

Ill health is undoubtedly most people's worst fear.

Lucy Arnold: 'GPs are able to see a problem from start to finish.'
Lucy Arnold: 'GPs are able to see a problem from start to finish.'

It can strike us down at an unpredictable moment creating a whirlwind of terror, confusion and despair in its wake. The way forward doesn’t seem clear and even if it did, we may not feel we have the strength to take the path.

But, that is where a good GP can step in and make a real difference.

GP will be there to celebrate the good news or commiserate with the bad news

GPs have the unique power to drastically improve lives at the individual level. Although a hospital physician may deliver the life-saving treatment for a patient’s physical condition, they may never have the means or opportunity to holistically address the rest of the patient’s complex needs. Disease not only attacks the internal organs but also creates emotional, spiritual and social damage that urgently needs addressing in order for the patient to continue functioning as they were before.

The close long-term bond GPs form with their patients allows them to address these issues and deliver the right support for that individual patient. GPs are privileged to be able to tell their patients that they will be there to hold their hand through the storm, that they will coordinate the process and that they will be their rock and reference point in the sea of confusion and unknown. After all is said and done, a GP will be there to celebrate the good news or commiserate with the bad news.

GPs are able to see a problem from start to finish

General practice is a place of continuity which benefits both patients and doctors alike. For patients, a familiar face can alleviate some of the anxiety associated with their health condition and remove the dreaded need for them to explain their story from the beginning. For doctors, continuity provides the opportunity to complete the satisfying cycle of learning and professional development. GPs are able to see a problem from start to finish, to try interventions, to get it wrong and then to get it right. They have the time and space to continue to solve the problem after the patient has left and to reflect upon the experience. This quenches the desire of a true scientist who enjoys solving a problem and learning from the experience. In addition to this depth of learning, GPs also gain breadth as their skills can be called upon to tackle almost any medical condition there is! This exciting challenge prevents monotony and keeps a GP’s knowledge up to date.

Lastly, general practice is the ideal environment to develop and utilise leadership skills. The smaller team allows opinions to be voiced more easily than in secondary care, and those who want to make changes and try new systems are often granted this opportunity.  Improving the service you provide is very fulfilling and a true leader will earn the respect of their team and motivate them to run their practice with patient care at its heart. A figure like this is needed in general practice and is key to move the practice forward in the ever-changing world of medicine.

  • Lucy Arnold is a student at Birmingham University

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