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Mind the generation gap: Why GPs need to stick together

Last week, Pulse published an article which provoked quite a reaction, and really got me thinking.

There were a couple of clear messages which could be gleaned from the comments on Pulse and on the GP Survival Facebook page. The first was that young GPs shouldn’t be taking it upon themselves to try and tell their more seasoned colleagues how they should be working or feeling. The second was that ‘leadership’ programmes are distrusted by many GPs.

My take on the blog was that it was an attempt at wry humour; a tongue-in-cheek article which meant no harm, but whose publication was misguided and caused much offense. I was surprised at the negativity which ensued, but many would say it is obvious I would feel like that, being a young GP having qualified only two years ago.

At first I considered that new GPs should be very careful about teaching our grandmothers to suck eggs. I’ve had some of my greatest learning experiences working with more experienced GPs, not just clinically but politically too. And I don’t think I would be as interested in medical politics if it wasn’t for those mentors who have guided me. But I think that respect has to go both ways, and the negativity towards the young GP who tried to write a light-hearted article was quite saddening to read.

I recently worked with a GP who was close to retirement, and although I was just starting out, we had a wonderful working relationship, learning from one another in different ways. I always valued his take on situations, and when I was unsure about something, he always welcomed my knock on his door. I often felt like my lack of experience was glaringly obvious, but he would often compliment me on my style of working, or come to me for my opinion on a case. As this was my first experience of working in primary care, it never crossed my mind that there is a chasm between those GPs just starting out, and those who have been working for many years.

Newly qualified GPs are entering the profession at its lowest ebb, and are learning from their older colleagues just how bad things are, and rightly so. So rather than seeing the reaction to the article as GPs having lost their sense of humour, it should probably be perceived as a sign of just how bad things really are in general practice and just how much our senior colleagues have been through.

But rather than cynically judging those new arrivals for taking places on leadership courses as professional climbers, perhaps they could be viewed as trying to make a difference, but not quite knowing how. I would hope that anyone completing a leadership course wouldn’t claim to know how to lead their colleagues just yet, but would be aiming to equip themselves with the skills to know where to start.

None of us knows where general practice is headed, and I think we’re all scared. But I hope we don’t let that fear divide us. All I know is that we have a lot to learn from one another, whether we’re young and naïve or older and experienced. And when the media and government are disrespecting us, let’s stick together and support one another on our different paths through this uncertain time.

Dr Rebecca Jones is a GP in Hastings and GPC Sessional Subcommittee South East Coast Representative



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