Last week I spent some time shadowing a general practitioner in my local town, Bedford. By sitting in and listening to appointments and going on home visits, I gained an invaluable insight to the world of general practice.
There is no denying that general practice has changed a lot in the past few years and is set to change even more in the future.
As a career choice, this area of medicine offers the opportunity to build relationships and trust with many patients and the opportunity to deal with a wide variety of cases.
For sure, no day is the same in general practice and there is no such thing as a quiet day. However, general practice is more flexible than some other areas of medicine. The GP I shadowed assured me that despite its hectic nature, general practice is a good idea for anyone who doesn’t intend devoting their entire life to medicine as there is opportunity to work part time.
General practice is in trouble at the moment and I am convinced that the government will need to address it. The GP I shadowed described general practice as the ‘piggy in the middle’ because 90% of all medical cases end up in the field. He explained how in some cases, hospitals aren’t informing or following up care of their patients and are instead leaving general practice to pick up the pieces.
Also, there is a shortage of general practitioners. Despite 50% of all medical graduates going into the field, there still isn’t sufficient numbers to deal with the growing population who are becoming more and more reliant on their GP.
Money is also an issue. General practice receives only about 9% of the budget and are facing more and more budget cuts.
This, together with the increase in hours, is causing many to retire from general practice and live off their pensions which can be collected at the age of 60.
Despite all this, general practice is something I am still interested in. During my experience I was asked ‘do you know what area of medicine you want to go into?’ Honestly, I have little idea. I want to keep an open mind and I’m sure my last year and a half of school plus a 5 year medical degree will give me plenty of time to decide and have other insights and glimpses.
During my lunch break, by some luck I found myself chatting to a nurse practitioner named Linda. At the time, I knew very little about the roles of nurse practitioners and was undoubtably interested in learning. Linda was an authoritative figure over some of the other nurses. She explained to me that after her nursing degree she has done an extra 3 years of bolt on courses. She also runs her own sexual health clinic and it was certainly clear that she loves her job. She was also very encouraging towards me, telling me to follow my dreams and wishing me the best of luck.
I really am grateful to the medical practices involved and the GP I shadowed for offering me this experience.
General practice is busy and the pressure on the staff is only mounting. Nevertheless, the work ethic of these people, the service and importance to the community general practice brings and the relationships between the doctors and patients, I have nothing but awe for.