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Keeping it in the family: father and son GPs

Dr Peter Tasker's son Chris followed him into a career as a family doctor. So was this down to nature, nurture or neither?

Dr Peter Tasker's son Chris followed him into a career as a family doctor. So was this down to nature, nurture or neither?

Father - Dr Peter Tasker

Following qualification at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School in 1971 I expected to stay in hospital medicine.

However, after supplementing my income as a medical SHO by doing GP locums, I rapidly developed an interest in family medicine, taking into consideration patient expectations and cultural backgrounds as well as carrying out traditional medicine using available diagnostic tools.

I was convinced that health promotion and disease prevention were just as important as disease management and quite early on developed a special interest in diabetes. This fulfilled my ethos of a team approach to holistic care. In 1979 I joined a large practice in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

It was clear during my elder son, Chris's, education that he found sciences and maths and all things factual more interesting than arts subjects – a situation he now spends leisure time addressing.

He is an independent thinker with no intent to follow the paternal interests of philately and railways!

My younger son has similar academic interests but chose engineering - my father's profession – rather than medicine.

Chris decided to study medicine, qualifying from the University of Nottingham in 2005. Heather, my eldest child and daughter by my first marriage, is also a doctor and now an established General Practitioner in Nottingham.

Heather and I had very close contact throughout her childhood but she did not live with me so her influences were slightly different from those of Chris. Her mother was a nurse and Heather feels her interest in a medical career grew partly from her mother's professional enthusiasm.

Two siblings choosing medicine adds strength to the question – nature or nurture?

I did not intentionally encourage Chris' decision but he was probably influenced by growing up in a home with frequent on-call commitments and, in the days prior to the development of co-operatives, became very used to disturbed evenings and weekends.

He was exposed to my continual enthusiasm and interest in medicine.

I had, and have, a great group of GP partners. Their friendship has always been apparent and probably influenced Chris's feelings.

Once Chris decided to apply for medical school I encouraged him by accompanying him to University open days and interviews and I hope helped him in his application for F1 jobs – we had pieces of paper scattered all over the living room floor arranged and rearranged in a hierarchical fashion until final decisions were made.

I was not particularly concerned which branch of medicine he was attracted to but knowing that he enjoys patient interaction rather than scalpel wielding, I was delighted he finally decided to train for general practice, successfully applying for a place on the Bath VTS.

Not surprisingly we talk medicine fairly frequently, swapping stories and experiences. Indeed I have found some of his lecture notes and tutorial handouts very useful.

I think the generation gap highlights the differences in our training. I feel his is more focussed; he envies me my breadth of knowledge. The structure of junior doctors' work patterns in the early 70's was very different from current practice. The ideal is probably a hybrid of the two.

While still enjoying everyday patient experiences I am quite concerned about many of the political issues Chris, and indeed Heather, will face in the future.

I feel the so-called reforms have such negative patient consequences that the "knock-on" effect could so easily lead to job dissatisfaction.

Demise of co-operatives, loss of personal lists, government imposition of increased access and the negative influences of PCTs all concern me in relation to the risk of discouraging young doctors from a career which for me has been very fulfilling.

Son - Dr Chris Tasker

I qualified in 2005 from Nottingham and am currently on the Bath VTS for general practice. Inevitably my career path and choices have been influenced by a number of factors. The question is, how much is my current situation due to my father?

As a child I have many memories of general practice and the impact on family life.

When dad was on call, mum would answer the phone and contact him by radio while he drove himself from house to house seeing patients. He was always busy and very devoted to his work.

He also had a specialist interest in diabetes and was frequently presenting at meetings around the country. Despite the obvious passion he had for medicine, when it came to my own career choices, I never felt that it was either forced upon me or expected of me.

I would like to say that medicine had been a lifelong ambition but the reality is that my careers advice at school was quite limited and my exposure to the medical profession created an interest and enthusiasm unmatched elsewhere.

Overall medical school in Nottingham was a fantastic experience.

From an academic perspective, the first two years, which primarily consisted of lectures, were a little dry. But once clinical experience commenced, my enthusiasm grew and I felt little doubt I had made the correct choice. Dad remained interested in a non-intrusive way, and it did help to have a parent who had a good understanding of what I was trying to achieve.

It became apparent following qualification that I was hitting the NHS at a time of massive change and uncertainty. We were to be the first of a new breed of junior doctors, the ‘F1's'.

We would apply for our jobs using an unbiased, non judgemental, impersonal, ranking-based system, probably as far removed from the experience of my father's generation of doctors as is possible.

I could see some of the sense behind this thinking but did not anticipate the huge changes ahead.

Whereas junior doctors up until recently had been able to rotate through a wide variety of medical disciplines in order to make an informed career choice, we were going to be ‘guinea pigs' – yet again. The MTAS saga was beginning.

Decisions and applications had to be made quickly and I was extremely fortunate to emerge from the lottery with my first choice - the VTS in Bath - where my experiences have been very positive.

I have learnt a great deal in my first two posts and have been extremely well supported and encouraged by my supervisors.

What has surprised me most about the NHS is that the people who have the power to make change do not appear to consider or listen to health care professionals at ground level.

While it was never my intention to copy my father, I believe we have similar values when it comes to patient care. I fear that current and future changes could erode the fundamental ethos that underpins general practice.

Will my children have memories of a father who is fulfilled and positive about his working day? I hope so.

Father and son GPs: Drs Peter and Chris Tasker

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