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Finding the beauty in general practice



What does beauty mean to you? Do you think of lavender fields basking in the Provence sun? Michelangelo’s ridiculously fantastic statue of David? The awe inspiring Taj Mahal? George Clooney maybe?  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, they say, so while my wife is obviously beautiful to me, you may well have different ideas (I doubt it though, she has asked me to add).

We are generalists, specialists in seeing anything that happens to come our way

What about medically? Are you able to appreciate beauty on a day-to-day basis through work as well?  What could possibly be beautiful in your work life?  ‘Here we have a beautiful example of a classic rosacea rash,’ where the rash itself may be beautiful, but the owner of the rash feels anything but. Or, worse still perhaps, a ‘beautiful example of a thrombosed external pile.’ Maybe one for the text books but not so attractive if you are the unfortunate owner of the afflicted anus.

I often ponder over what makes our job beautiful and there is no straightforward answer. Imagine being an ENT surgeon for example – spending your days peering in to nostrils or down a flexible scope, with never a chance of somebody suddenly presenting you with a nappy of green poo just because you ‘might want to see it’. Or what about working as a gynaecologist, thereby immediately restricting yourself to only ever treating half of the population and maybe the lasting feeling that you spent unnecessary hours studying scrotal anatomy for your finals?

Well we as GPs can have no such feelings. We diligently concentrated on the full curriculum at medical school and consequently are willing and able to see everybody that now comes to us. So far today I have spoken to the coroner, the early pregnancy unit, the acute medical hospital team and a worried relative in Switzerland. Add to this the usual flow of Monday morning patients attending surgery, with ailments as varied as a new breast lump, an acute asthma attack and relapsing polymyalgia rheumatica and you start to get a feel of why we do what we do. What do these patients have in common? Nothing – that’s the point.

Some of us dabble, doing a bit of GPSI work or maybe still attending a hospital session here and there, but essentially we are generalists, specialists in seeing anything that happens to come our way. You probably spend large swathes of the day thinking on your feet, displaying a calm exterior, but with your feet paddling madly underwater at times. We need to remain adaptable, be quick to learn and seek advice when needed, but display confidence and reassurance in appropriate measures.

That’s what makes our job beautiful – seeing all comers and never quite knowing what is going to come through the door next.

That’s the beauty of general practice.

Richard Cook is a GP partner in Hurstpierpoint, West Sussex. You can follow him on Twitter @drmoderate