Viewpoint: Why I'm Choosing General Practice: Richard Cruttenden

'So, why do you want to be a doctor?' is a question that we all have had to answer during our applications to medical school.

Richard Cruttenden: 'The unknown factor of exactly who will come through the door adds an extra challenge.'
Richard Cruttenden: 'The unknown factor of exactly who will come through the door adds an extra challenge.'

There are many answers that can be given, some better than others but there is one reply that we all gave and which unites the medical profession and that is: ‘To care for and help people’.

There is no doubt that every speciality has the best interest of the patient at heart but in the busy revolving door of hospital service it can sometimes seem that patients are just part of a juggling act of waiting times, bed shortages and hurried ward rounds. The transient nature of hospital stays coupled with the pressure to get the patients discharged often means you may only know a person for their illness or what’s in their notes instead of everything else that makes them who they are.

General practice provides the right environment for lifelong relationships to form

Those same pressures are slowly catching up on general practice, but from what I have seen on my placements, GPs still embody the face of doctors amongst the community as trustworthy, professional and caring.

Contrasted with the acute setting of hospitals, general practice provides the right environment for lifelong relationships to form between the doctor and patient. Continuity of care, ease of access and familiar faces are all hallmarks of the excellent services that come from the GP and represent what the public desire from their medical practitioners. For me, this ability to deliver highly personalised medicine to patients greatly appeals to my original reasons to pursue a medical career. The satisfaction in seeing how you can have a positive impact on a person throughout the various stages of their life is something that few other professions can provide.

Variety is something that is not commonly associated with general practice, the stereotype being of a waiting room full of the worried well. However, all my GP placements so far have displaced this myth as I’ve seen GPs deal with a wide range of patients presenting with an extensive array of complaints.

This variety is something that again attracts me to general practice, the unknown factor of exactly who will come through the door adds an extra challenge which is not often seen in the hospital setting where A&E quickly sifts patients into specialty dependant wards. Not being someone who wishes to be confined by a specialty, the opportunity to become a generalist would allow me to embrace the great range of medical specialties available, which in itself is something that few medical careers can claim to offer.

Whilst how general practice works is set to change in the rapidly evolving landscape of the current NHS, the lifelong and meaningful interactions that GPs have with their patients and the key role that they play in delivering healthcare into the local community will not. Taking on the mantle of the GP with all its trials and tribulations and adapting in this career into future unknowns is something that I look forward to.

  • Richard Cruttenden is a third year student at Leeds Medical School

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