Having an inspiring, enjoyable and rewarding career is something we all aspire to achieve. Many GPs feel that a portfolio career is helping them to diversify within different areas of general practice and protect against burn out, keeping GPs from leaving general practice all together. But how do you start down this career path?
I began my portfolio career soon after completing VTS. Alongside my sessional work I am also involved with my local CCG to help improve healthcare services. I am a GP writer and I am involved in undergraduate education. In the last year I helped to set up MyLocumManager.com – an online software to manage locum admin and provide support tools for locums. I am currently developing a project to improve access to mental health services.
A portfolio career has allowed me to work in different sectors that contribute to general practice. It has given me flexibility to work alongside my family commitments. I do not mean to say that we should all abandon our clinical roles and search for alternative jobs. However, if you are looking to develop more skills and explore other interests then perhaps a portfolio career could be for you.
What are the options?
There are limitless options depending on your interests and goals.
Within general practice
If you have ideas about how local services can be improved for the patient population, then you could become involved with your local CCG. There are numerous opportunities available for all levels of experience. Contact your local CCG directly for more information.
If you’re interested in the future of general practice and have ideas and strategies on how improvements could be made, LMC, GPC or locality lead roles could allow you to be a voice for your fellow GPs.
To support your fellow GPs in other ways you could become a GP appraiser, or become a mentor for other GPs to help provide advice and guidance.
If you want to broaden your clinical skills you can become a GP with special interests and provide more specialist services within the general practice setting. If there are additional services your practice could provide (for example diabetes care) then you could undertake additional diplomas in order to offer these to your patient population.
If educational roles interest you there are numerous undergraduate and postgraduate opportunities available. Such roles can lead to opportunities for a postgraduate certificate or MSc in medical education. You could help to shape the GPs of the future by becoming a trainer or programme director. Contact VTS schemes, your local deanery or university undergraduate and postgraduate departments for information about available roles.
Outside the practice
If you are interested in entrepreneurship there are a number of schemes like the NHS England Clinical entrepreneur scheme. These can help you to develop a business that can directly improve NHS services.
Other options include medical writing, aesthetic medicine, expedition medicine or volunteer work. If you are interested in media opportunities sign up to the association of broadcasting doctors. There are also opportunities within the pharmaceutical and private healthcare industry, which recruitment agencies can point you towards.
If you’re unsure of where to start, there are many ‘alternative careers’ conferences for doctors which offer information on different career options.
What are the advantages of a portfolio career?
You can learn additional skills that you can implement within general practice. A portfolio career can offer additional forms of income and can work well if you have family commitments. It can also provide relief from the pressures of practice work and can offer opportunities for career growth and development.
What are the disadvantages of a portfolio career?
It can be difficult to juggle all the roles. Your income can fluctuate according to the opportunities available especially when you are first starting. This tends to be less of a problem once your roles are more established.
So should I do it?
Whether you are a full time GP or have a portfolio career the most important thing is that the work you do contributes to both your workplace and your life in a meaningful and positive way. As general practice faces increasing pressures perhaps portfolio roles are a natural evolution which ensure a varied and talented skill set amongst the profession, whilst keeping the job feeling fresh and protecting doctors from burning out.
Dr Surina Chibber is a sessional GP in West London, GP writer, co-founder of MyLocumManager.com, involved with Hounslow CCG, an Imperial College clinical methods tutor and examiner, undergraduate teacher for Kings College London and a healthcare tech developer.
She will be running the workshop GP Careers in 2016: Things to consider when starting out, at the upcoming Pulse Live, London on Tuesday 22 March.