Over the years I have had numerous medics (both medical students and doctors including GPs) ask me what a portfolio career is.
My career is always evolving, which is something I am proud of. At the moment, my two main careers are working as a locum GP and as a MSc programme lead and senior clinical lecturer. I also write occasionally for GPonline, and I am currently writing a book about portfolio careers – I'm currently looking for GPs to interview about their careers and for people to write sections, you can sign up here if you want to be involved.
In the past I was registered as a Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examiner with the GMC, a director appointee and school governor at an academy and comprehensive school respectively. I also founded a medical careers organisation called DreamSmartTutors.
What is a portfolio career?
My career is a good example of a portfolio career. In short, a portfolio career is a combination of different (or related) careers. There could be various ways of working too, such as being freelance for all or part of your work, or employed by one, two or more companies.
As a GP, there are many ways to form a portfolio career – such as working as a salaried GP two days a week, with the reminder of the week writing medical communications freelance or teaching, for example.
Having a portfolio career is more common in general practice simply because it is much easier to do than it is in hospital medicine. GPs can work less than full time and still earn a reasonably good salary potentially supplemented by other work in their portfolio career. However, there are hospital doctors who also have portfolio careers.
Why might you consider a portfolio career now?
Portfolio careers are becoming increasingly popular in general practice. The numbers of full-time equivalent, full-qualified GPs is dropping and we are not on track to meet the government’s pledge of an extra 6,000 GPs by 2024.
More GPs are retiring early, leaving the profession entirely or leaving their salaried or partner roles to work as locums. Because of the added pressure in general practice as a result of this, more and more GPs are choosing to cut back on their hours and work part time or do some of their work from home. Portfolio careers allow GPs to earn additional income and spend time doing other work they enjoy.
Portfolio careers enable doctors to have more career autonomy, maintain their interests and develop new skills. With the growth in remote working since the pandemic, having a portfolio career can also allow you to do some of your work from home if this suits your current circumstances.
Developing a broad skillset will only set you apart within and outside of a clinical career, should you wish to pursue non-clinical roles as part of your portfolio career.
All of this is not only beneficial to you as an individual, but to the NHS and our patients too. By stepping away from clinical medicine for a short while I am able to return to clinical practice feeling refreshed; I have been able to nurture my creative side which in turns help to nurture my clinical side.
Doctors can also see financial benefits, which might encourage them to remain in salaried roles as opposed to becoming a locum GP, which in turn might help with continuity of care for patients and also benefit practices.
How can you go about creating a portfolio career?
You have to know ‘you’ in order to create a portfolio career. You have to know what you are interested in and decide if you’d like to (and if it’s possible) to create a career out of it.
Making a list of your skills and qualities is a good start. List out some careers you’d like to break into. For me, I knew I was good at writing and enjoyed it. I found it therapeutic and wanted to write more, so I started submitting more and more articles during my year out of training after the foundation programme.
One piece of advice from an editor was to 'keep writing' and I did, which led to more articles, writing for GPonline and now writing a book.
So, it’s worth having a think about what you are good at, what you can realistically improve on and how you might be able to take it one step further.
- Dr Patrice Baptiste is a GP in London