My life as an ST2 GP
This week, Rosalyn tells us about how she’s found her time in GP training so far!
What training are you pursuing right now?
GP training. I’m currently taking a year out in between ST2 and ST3 doing an OOPE working with Health Education England setting up the new Supported Return to Training programme.
Where are you working?
London, right now.
At what stage did you decide on your speciality? What other specialities were you considering?
I decided during my F3 and F4 years. I wasn’t at all sure what I wanted to do. During my foundation years I seriously considered leaving medicine – to be honest, I considered this most of the way through medical school too, but something kept me there.
In my F3 I was a clinical teaching fellow and working supernumerary on the acute medical unit. I really enjoyed that. I did consider doing CMT or ACCS acute med, but I couldn’t face the idea of being a med reg and doing nights and weekends well into my thirties.
I applied to medicine thinking I would be a GP, but I think that was mainly because my mum is one. My experience of general practice through medical school and foundation training was so varied that I kept going to and fro on my decision. I realised recently that I can make of it what I want, and that it will be hugely dependent on the practice I choose to work at.
What brought you to your decision?
My main aim in life has always been to have a family. I decided on GP because the training is short, and I was desperate to be in control of my own life instead of being sent to hospitals all over the country – especially as my partner was an EM trainee at the time.
It ticks a lot of boxes for me – control, options for a portfolio career early on, leadership and education roles. I wouldn’t say I love being in the GP surgery particularly, but I do enjoy continuity of care, and there’s definitely parts of being a GP which suit me.
For me my life outside of work has always been more important so finding a career that wouldn’t completely take over my life was the main deciding factor.
I also loved my ST1 GP placement which confirmed for me that I do enjoy general practice in the right environment.
How have you found the exams so far? How did you revise for them?
I haven’t done any! I resat finals in 4th year. I’m dreading postgraduate exams, which is possibly why I have avoided them for so long… I’m booked onto a course about how to revise for the AKT.
I have done a post-graduate certificate in medical education, but as this was coursework and essays it reminded me of school and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was much more opinion-based than fact-based, so suited the way I think better.
How is your day job split up?
I’m currently OOPE working in HEE so I’m in the office 9-5, attending meetings and working on projects.
What aspects of being a GP have you enjoyed the most? What has been hard?
I enjoy seeing the same patient several times, particularly seeing when I have had a positive impact. I like using time as a diagnostic factor, something we don’t often have the privilege of doing in hospital medicine. I like the autonomy and being part of a team where there’s less of a hierarchical structure. I like that people tell me everything about their life and trust me with the innermost details of their problems, often things they haven’t shared with anyone else. I like seeing a whole family and seeing the connections between them.
But it can be difficult, sitting in a room by yourself and having to make decisions in a short space of time. I also don’t like patients coming with preconceived ideas of how I should treat them.
I’m not a fan of the attitude other doctors and healthcare professionals have towards ‘just’ GPs. Being undermined or unappreciated in hospital posts or when calling for advice, or referring. Hospital doctors often don’t realise that while they only need to know about their speciality, we’re expected to know everything about every speciality. When we refer or ask for advice, its because they have more knowledge in that area, not because we’re stupid.
What’s the best thing about being a GP?
From my perspective, it’s being able to control my own life and have a portfolio career early on in my career compared to my hospital colleagues.
What’s the worst thing about being a GP?
Being unappreciated. Also, the paperwork.
Could you share with us your most challenging moment as a GP?
Honestly, I haven’t had that many yet – I’ve only done 6 months of GP as a trainee and 4 months as an F2, I’m sure there’s a lot to come! I’d say most of my challenges as a doctor have been communication issues, either with staff or with patients and relatives.
What do you think are the most critical personality traits that a doctor should possess for a career in GP?
Empathy and a good listening ear. Time-management skills. An interest in holistic medicine.
Some senior GPs may say that the GP training programme is not long enough to get a broad-enough experience in the 3 years of training, what do you think?
I have to say I’m glad I’ve done a few extra years during my journey to being a GP. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it is useful to have a bit more life experience and patient experience. I believe they’re continually looking into ways of making the GP training programme fit for purpose. There are ways of targeting our training better, rather than making it longer. Service provision in a hospital post isn’t useful training if all the shifts you do are nights on the labour ward…
Another concern of many trainees is that General Practice doesn’t offer the same research and academic opportunities in comparison to hospital specialties. What are your thoughts on this?
I completely disagree – there are lots of opportunities out there and with the government so keen to increase community-based care, there are a lot of opportunities to set up new ways of working and collaborate with secondary care to create and learn new things. You just need to look out for them, or take the initiative!
Do you think this is a good time to train as a GP?
Yes and no. It’s a hard time to be in the NHS full-stop. The pressure on GPs is intense. However, this means there’s a lot of opportunity for innovation, and it’s easier to bargain with practices to create jobs that fit you as they are desperately in need of GPs.
What’s your number one piece of advice to junior doctors who are considering applying for GP training?
Don’t rush, take your time, do a taster week, do an F3 or F4 or F5. Learn about yourself and use that knowledge to help you decide what is the right career for you. Consider careers advice or coaching (available through your Professional Support Unit usually or privately).
Don’t do GP because you think it’s the easy option – it isn’t!