I am angry. I am burnt out. I am overpaid. I am set for a gold-plated pension. I am the reason why A&Es are too busy. I am a failed specialist.
Apparently, when I read the papers.
I still feel a glow when teaching, describing and doing my trade
There is a problem universally acknowledged that GPs have an image problem. Students are telling us this. Patients are telling us this. The media is spinning this.
When it comes to the ‘good news’ elements of the job, we are cautious. We are afraid to make the job look too enjoyable, and as a result there is a self-fulflling prophecy of negativity. I’m not talking about the endless joy I get from signing parachute forms (as if anyone could be so crazy to think that’s a highlight of the job). But that surprise present from a patient for whom you had no idea that they valued your care so highly. Or even just having a ‘good day’ where things go well: the hospital switchboard picks up quickly, the hospital secretary acts beyond their duty to help, the kettle isn’t empty on trying to find hot water and patients seem to leave happy and fixed.
I became particularly aware of this when BBC Countryfile did some filming with us on Arran over a year ago, and more recently with other media work. We need to attract bright and able students into general practice. It can be a great place for academic stimulation, job autonomy and professional satisfaction. But for every viewer who is a potential future GP, there is a sceptical confrere, a journalist and a potential point of envy that certainly made me think twice about suggesting that I’m at all capable of enjoying my career.
So, despite the fact that – like many of us – I have my own sources of professional frustration, and some personal challenges too (will there ever be accountability in middle management?) I still feel a glow when teaching, describing and doing my trade. And – in an act of protection against the comments that might follow this article – yes rural practice does present different challenges to colleagues who face more acute burnout from a different range of pressures. This can be a good thing and one that we need to let our future colleagues understand.
It’s not all doom and gloom, and whilst many of us have suffered decisions of despair, we need to share some of the magic that we feel too.
Dr David Hogg is a GP on the Isle of Arran, Scotland. You can follow him on Twitter @davidrhogg