Judging by the continuous and relentless smear campaigns against GPs in the daily rags, I am surprised the RCGP hasn’t taken a more pro-active approach to the marketing and re-branding of our profession. Unfortunately, GPs are not quite in the same category as Miley Cyrus when any publicity, good or bad, is career progression.
Yet when we are stressed and the chips are down, it is easy to forget all the positive things that a career in general practice has to offer any potential medical student recruit. And if we are to cap hospital training numbers, we need to make sure primary care is an active choice, rather than just a second rate option.
Although general practice was not my first choice of career, I would definitely say it was an active choice, as I had already experimented with psychiatry, medicine and neurology, before getting here. What appealed to me most of all was the variety of work and the control over my destiny. I did not want to be pigeon-holed into a PHD about mitochondria and then travel 200 miles to secure a consultant post.
As it happened, I travelled thousands of miles, as the world is your oyster as a GP. Immediately after I completed my GP training, I worked as a ship’s doctor for 18 months and travelled widely through Europe, the Americas and Australia. Having spent many happy days and nights on the ‘Love Boat’ I would highly recommend it to anyone for a short period of time.
There are now more opportunities available to newly qualified GPs than ever before. They can be locum, salaried or partners. They can work two sessions or 10. They can work day, night or weekends. They can develop interests in education, commissioning and any number of clinical areas. They can experience the thrill of expedition medicine, overseas aid or even just the old fashioned ‘Love Boat’. I cannot think of any other career that is as flexible, versatile and diverse as general practice.
And what is the alternative? The grass is definitely NOT greener across the fence. I recently spent a day with 25 hospital consultants as the only GP on a course. By the end of the day, I was worn out with their tales of bureaucracy, bullying and complete lack of control. Despite the gradual erosion of our autonomy, I still felt considerably more empowered as a GP Partner than any of these consultants.
So how can we ‘sex up’ our profession? A TV soap of ‘Doctors’ meets ‘The Hunger Games’ would be a start. As generalists we acquire lots of skills that enable our survival in the games, however hostile the environment. Let’s face it, if the work of a pathologist can be made glamorous in ‘Silent Witness’ why can’t ours? And if it’s comedy you’re after, our tales are enough to fill an entire series of ‘Little Britain’ and more.
So in spite of the box-ticking, patient expectations and government interference, I have never regretted my decision to become a GP because I still feel I have more control over my life than a hospital consultant.
Now I just need to work on the serenity to accept CQC and the like…..
Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol