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Why I love being a GP


Being a GP trainer is a fulfilling and humbling experience, but it's vital to get the support of your partners ­

Dr Steve Brown explains

I became a trainer because I wanted to teach and encourage potential GPs on a one-to-one basis. During my time as a medical student and junior doctor there was a distinct lack of support and positive feedback.

I have been a GP since 1991 and a trainer since 1995. It was easy for me to become a trainer. Our practice was an established training practice, and I already had the MRCGP. I attended three residential new trainers' courses (although unlike today there was no coursework to pass), and joined our trainers' group for six months before my training assessment visit.

With great support from my partners the visit went well and I passed.

The benefits of being a trainer are many and varied and I always learn from my registrars. They all teach me something and it is good to show humility! They have different attitudes and experiences.

I usually get to know them very well, and sometimes have to give them more advice on non-medical issues than on medical matters. I have had registrars suffer health problems including depression, bereavement, and isolation from family abroad, and these often need to be talked through as they can impact on patients and practice staff.

I enjoy preparing registrars for life in the real world and it is a joy to see them change from an SHO to an all-round family practitioner with confidence in their consultation and management skills.

Our trainers' group provides a ready-made support network. We meet every month for an hour; we have two study afternoons a year and also a two-day residential course. There is ample opportunity to talk about training problems, and I usually find that somebody else has had the same problem at some time. We often do one-to-one co-mentoring sessions when we can talk about anything ­ usually not medical.

As a trainer I have developed other skills. These include being part of practice visiting teams assessing other trainers and also undertaking mid-term assessments on other local registrars. There are regular opportunities to interview or shortlist VTS candidates, and there is nothing like doing this regularly to hone one's skills.

I have become an audit assessor for summative assessment and this allows me to read lots of interesting audits, and get together with another group of trainers for calibration meetings.

I keep up to date with what is happening at deanery level as changes are always taking place. I have also become the local trainer who gets asked about audits before they have been submitted!

I enjoy taking two sessions a year with the registrars on their day release. I have an interest in musculoskeletal and sports medicine and enjoy teaching them joint examination ­ which does not seem to be done any better in hospital than when I trained.

There is potential to broaden one's outlook. Examples include teaching on the new trainers' course, becoming a course organiser, teaching the enhanced registrars or specialising in other types of learners such as F1 and F21 doctors, registrars undertaking remedial training, those returning to work after having children or asylum doctors. Many challenges lurk there, and over the next few years there will be an increasing demand for good trainers who will have to adapt their skills to meet the different needs.

On average I spend a day a week on training activities. There is a lot of informal time that goes in as well. The financial reward is a few thousand pounds a year and it is also easier to get some QOF points ­ such as for summaries.

The time involved is not, in my opinion, adequately rewarded, but I don't think many trainers do it for the money. Having a registrar doesn't get the practice a free full-time locum for 12 months, because my registrars are supernumerary; they have a weekly day-release course and other study sessions and take eight to nine months to nearly match a GP's workload. However, an extra pair of hands is gratefully received.

If the partnership is looking to employ another doctor, often the registrar fits the bill. They have effectively interviewed the practice during their time and seen it warts-and-all, and the practice has definitely interviewed them.

There are many enjoyable aspects to being a trainer, but I feel the main thing is to enjoy it and remember that you are shaping somebody's future by your example and teaching.

Steve Brown is a GP in Beaconsfield, Bucks

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