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At the heart of general practice since 1960

(Not) Just a GP

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Across the country approximately 3000 doctors will have taken up a GP VTS training number this August.  Congratulations to you all.  The majority of rotations begin training in an acute trust setting usually alongside other speciality trainees. 

I would be surprised if, when meeting our colleagues over induction coffee, or on the initial ward round, most GP trainees have not found themselves taking on an inferior stereotype.  Whether it is that the plastic surgeon who already looks like he is dressing from Savile Row and up on hearing ‘GP’ looks over your shoulder and then gets into a conversation about competition ratios with a girl who is similarly dressed in a terrifyingly high (and entirely impractical) pair of heels, or the more overt question ‘Why do you want to do GP?’, it is hard not to take all reactions, verbalised or non-verbalised, as some sort of put down.  Furthermore it is exceedingly annoying to realise you have just played along with the stereotype, but it is fairly difficult to negotiate out of ‘just the GP’ on meeting your boss on his express ward round en route to theatre.

A few thoughts.  You’re not alone.  By the time you get to your first GP teaching everyone will have experienced similar emotions either coming from within, or projected upon them.  It has been indoctrinated into us since the first day at medical school that there is some sort of invisible pecking order and those at the ‘top’ appear to need to keep bugling about their status.  However if you look at your medical graduation photo, or your fellow F2s, in the eyes of the GMC, the foundation school and the public (and that includes your proud Granny), we are all the same - competent doctors achieving the standards expected of us at this stage of training. 

The best strategy is probably to take it all with a pinch of salt and a bit of humour, in the same way one engages with intra-sibling banter at home.  You’re naive if you think that having a full-on discussion with our stilettoed colleague above is going to change her, or leave you in a better light.  I’d probably be far too scared to anyway!  Furthermore it is perhaps worth pausing to note that there are an abundance of medical marriages, many across the hospital/primary care boundary.  For many colleagues the bravado at work doesn’t actually extend to thier personal life.

Before long you’ll be amongst kindred spirits within primary care and feel like a fish in your own very welcoming, skilled pond of water.  One day stiletto heels will be banging down your door for help with her mother, and you may need her if some crisis befalls you. 

Meanwhile step back and enjoy the hospital pantomime reminding yourself that thanks to your own manoeuvring, this will soon not be your world.

Alex Thomson-Moore, an ST2 in the Severn Deanery.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Why?

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  • As a UK trained GP, now working in Australia, I do feel that UK GPs would get more respect from the population if they offered more than scripts, referrals and counselling - we're expected to suture lacerations, plaster fractures, excise skin cancers, venesect for PCRV and many more hands-on procedures. several of my GP colleagues do delivers/c-sections, and others in the practice do anaesthetic lists. I know UK GPs aren't going to do all those procedures, but try aiming to do a bit more in-house.

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  • Yeah, keep smiling, it'll be great when you're fully qualify.

    General Practice is a bed of roses.

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  • Be assertive. Ignore these perceived attitudes and get on with your job, aiming to do the best you possibly can, and to learn from the greatest teacher - experience.

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  • Susan Kersley

    When I was asked 'Are you a nurse?' at medical functions and then told doctors that I was a 'senior clinical medical officer ' in Community Health I felt the 'put down' you describe even more: it seemed like Community Health was even lower in the pecking order than General Practice!!!

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  • >try aiming to do a bit more in-house.

    We offer what is specified in the GP contract, and those things aren't. More importantly, we are struggling to cope with the current work with the current funding model. The way that the Aus system works cuts out a lot of the nonsense, and the (sort of) fee for service model is much better.

    As to the article above, let's see if young GPs feel the same in a few years. I felt the same way at point of qualifying but even a few years later I realise what a hostile life sapping environment this is - and it's due to get much worse. Family commitments aside, I cannot understand why a new GP would stay in this country.

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  • Get out, get out now. Change career path before it is too late.

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  • Don't do GP. Use your medical degree wisely. You worked hard for it.

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  • Alex, General Practice is really under attack at the moment so I think your aspiring hospital colleagues may have good reason to wonder why you would choose GP. The hospital may be pantomime but as it looks at the moment GP is at best a tragedy at worst a terrifying horror........ that said I don't know what type of theater you prefer.

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