Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Mehreen Mahfooz

I've been told for many years now that I'd make a great GP; to begin with, I didn't respond well to this.

Mehreen Mahfooz: 'I couldn’t think of a role where I could give more care, help and support.'
Mehreen Mahfooz: 'I couldn’t think of a role where I could give more care, help and support.'

My mother’s protests that ‘the GP life will fit well around your future family’ irked me (she’s still clinging on to the hope that I’ll become a part-time super-housewife/doctor). As time has gone on, though, I’ve found myself increasingly defending GPs – these are some actual comments I’ve received.

‘It’s a cushy job – they hardly do anything compared to hospital doctors and still get paid loads, like £100k!’ Well, actually no. The holistic approach of general practice probably means that GPs explore more patient issues than most specialists and being on placement with GPs has only reinforced this. Also, I wish people would consider income tax.

 I couldn’t think of a role where I could give more care, help and support

‘GPs don’t even know anything, all they do is refer you to someone else!’ This is, (un)surprisingly, part of their job role. Most GPs would not profess to know everything; their title literally tells us that they have a generalised, albeit incredibly useful, knowledge of different medical topics, and in some cases, it’s probably better to seek the advice of a specialist consultant in a particular field.

‘My GP only ever gives me painkillers or just sends me away with nothing!’ Take it as a positive, dear. A lot of the time, presenting complaints in general practice are minor and self-limiting – introducing new-fangled drugs and medications into your body is not always the best treatment.

So why am I even thinking of putting myself in the firing line of complaints such as these? Well, despite the media and political barrage against GPs, I’ve come to believe that it’s the perfect career for myself.

I’ve been working as a care assistant at an elderly care home for over three years now, and although it’s challenging fitting in shifts around my medical degree, it’s been an invaluable experience being involved in the continuity of care for my residents. Getting to know someone when they first arrive, discussing their future options, and providing ongoing care for them and their families – there are so many similarities with my current role as a care assistant and (hopefully!) my future role as a GP. Being able to be there for someone when they are acutely unwell or need assistance fast (UTIs, for example!) is rewarding, but I also enjoy supporting people through other, more holistic aspects of their life. I’ve compared this with my second part-time job as a healthcare assistant in a large teaching hospital, and whilst it’s a very active environment, I sometimes find the continuity of care taxing. I often wonder what’s happened to patients once they’ve left a certain ward and how they’re doing.

General practice might seem, to the public, to be flawed, especially in the current political climate, but personally, I couldn’t think of a role where I could give more care, help and support.

  • Mehreen is a third year medical student at Leeds University

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