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Independents' Day

Sexing up the profession

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Judging by the continuous and relentless smear campaigns against GPs in the daily rags, I am surprised the RCGP hasn’t taken a more pro-active approach to the marketing and re-branding of our profession. Unfortunately, GPs are not quite in the same category as Miley Cyrus when any publicity, good or bad, is career progression.

Yet when we are stressed and the chips are down, it is easy to forget all the positive things that a career in general practice has to offer any potential medical student recruit. And if we are to cap hospital training numbers, we need to make sure primary care is an active choice, rather than just a second rate option.

Although general practice was not my first choice of career, I would definitely say it was an active choice, as I had already experimented with psychiatry, medicine and neurology, before getting here. What appealed to me most of all was the variety of work and the control over my destiny. I did not want to be pigeon-holed into a PHD about mitochondria and then travel 200 miles to secure a consultant post.

As it happened, I travelled thousands of miles, as the world is your oyster as a GP. Immediately after I completed my GP training, I worked as a ship’s doctor for 18 months and travelled widely through Europe, the Americas and Australia. Having spent many happy days and nights on the ‘Love Boat’ I would highly recommend it to anyone for a short period of time.

There are now more opportunities available to newly qualified GPs than ever before. They can be locum, salaried or partners. They can work two sessions or 10. They can work day, night or weekends. They can develop interests in education, commissioning and any number of clinical areas. They can experience the thrill of expedition medicine, overseas aid or even just the old fashioned ‘Love Boat’. I cannot think of any other career that is as flexible, versatile and diverse as general practice.

And what is the alternative? The grass is definitely NOT greener across the fence. I recently spent a day with 25 hospital consultants as the only GP on a course. By the end of the day, I was worn out with their tales of bureaucracy, bullying and complete lack of control. Despite the gradual erosion of our autonomy, I still felt considerably more empowered as a GP Partner than any of these consultants.

So how can we ‘sex up’ our profession? A TV soap of ‘Doctors’ meets ‘The Hunger Games’ would be a start. As generalists we acquire lots of skills that enable our survival in the games, however hostile the environment. Let’s face it, if the work of a pathologist can be made glamorous in ‘Silent Witness’ why can’t ours?  And if it’s comedy you’re after, our tales are enough to fill an entire series of ‘Little Britain’ and more. 

So in spite of the box-ticking, patient expectations and government interference, I have never regretted my decision to become a GP because I still feel I have more control over my life than a hospital consultant.

Now I just need to work on the serenity to accept CQC and the like…..


Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol


Readers' comments (6)

  • Vinci Ho

    The Hunger Games(three books) was not just about surviving , it was about standing up against a tyranny in a revolution .........

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  • Pipin Singh

    I couldn't agree more to be honest. Autonomy, flexibility and a holistic approach to management that no one else offers anymore it seems, whilst balancing a demanding business side aswell. Nice to see another positive article. I still feel that a change in the title aswell would help reflect this. (see my article sep 2013) .

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  • erm think about the CSA. that will destroy anyone's libido for this profession. Until the CSA issue is acknowledged and the injustice done to countless people accepted the profession will struggle to recover.

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  • Sounds good Shaba if you have the flexibility of having a portfolio career like yourself.
    Unfortunately these careers are not the ones that will keep everyday General Practice alive. In fact General Practice is based upon continuity, stability and the 'work horses' that provide this. I fully agree that there is much more scope for portfolio careers but they will destabilize and not enhance the traditional role of the profession.
    The truth is that for the vast majority of GPs who won't be able to have their stint on the Love Boat it will be 40 years of blood, sweat and tears + an ever more complaining, dissatisfied and entitled feeling patient base + a lack of union support.
    In fact we should send a stark message to all those bright, enthusiastic and capable young people and especially medical students.
    Don't do medicine - and if you feel you really have to, don't become a GP - it won't be long before you'll regret it.
    This is not a job you can do for 40 years ( saying that I've never worked on the Love Boat - most of us were hoping to take a cruise on it in retirement but this hope has disappeared if you have looked closer at the new NHS pension and the current pension tax rules).
    Just be honest here. If you're a GP under 45 you're stuffed already and what really depresses me is if we give up what is at the very core of our profession - to tell the truth.

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  • Shaba..Much as I like your balanced views I have to agree with Anonymous Feb 26 0.05`s view of blood sweat and tears and a fading dream of a cruise after retirement etc for most. In a way , many at the coalface of Primary care are like Miley Cyrus, except that her twerking is voluntary and will significantly improve her carer prospects and income, where as with us, we are instructed to do so and will only feel uncomnfortable when we sit down after a hard day at the office. Most GPs I know echo Anonymous 0.24 in saying that they would not advice a career in medicine in the UK , irrespective of the love-boating oppurtunities during training time, and if they insist on walking into it with their eyes wide shut, then to avoid primary care like the plague.

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  • Its refreshing to read something positive about being a GP. However, the phrase 'a candle in the wind' comes to mind.

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