As many of my peers must also have said in their medical school interviews, one of the reasons medicine is appealing as a career is that it leaves you with so many options once you qualify. Now, general practice is one of only a few specialties left where you will see a full range of medical conditions and be left to manage them.
Hospital doctors no longer have the time or bed space to manage the whole patient, only the acute condition. I recognise this is a challenge for GPs, as you have to keep up to date over a very broad spectrum of knowledge to ensure that you are giving patients the best possible care, but this is also what makes GP interesting.
If you have interest in a speciality, general practice has the scope to allow you to pursue this
Another feature that follows from diversity is the volume of patients you see in a session. Seeing a large number of patients is a challenge, but it does keeps the mind active. This means that the clinical reasoning skills you develop during your medical training continue to be relevant, as each patient will present with a different problem. Furthermore, if you have an interest in a particular speciality general practice has the scope to allow you to pursue this.
One of the things I believe makes GPs unique, is their role as ‘gatekeepers’ to the NHS. It is this role that makes GPs so important and, in my opinion, makes our system superior to those adopted in other countries. It is important and beneficial for patients that they are able to see a well-trained generalist, who can use their clinical judgment to decide if they need more specialist treatment and can refer them to the most appropriate person. In other systems where patients can self-refer to secondary specialist care they often chose the wrong specialty or doctor, wasting both time and money, and making resolution of their problem more complicated.
Over the last two-and-a-half years of clinical placements, I have come to realise that what I think of as ‘medicine’ is that practiced by GPs. In hospital the one aspect that I find most taxing is the morning ward round, which I do not believe is a good system for assessing patients and wastes a lot of time. In general practice I enjoy the quick turnaround, the variety of cases, and not having to endure ward rounds is the icing on the cake! It is also comforting to know that there is currently a huge demand for GPs across the country, so it is unlikely I will have difficulty in finding a job.
The question I have been asked is why I want to become a GP - a better question is simply, why not?
Rosie is a fifth year medical student at Keele University, Staffordshire.
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