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Top 10 ‘real world’ tips for GP trainees

Despite the negative press, general practice is still a rewarding and stimulating job, but there are many things that the curriculum does not cover. Here are my tips on how to enjoy the moment and make the most of your VTS and beyond.

1. Small groups are your lifeline

I know it feels like you’ve entered a tantric yoga session, but there is a reason we focus on the dynamics of small groups during training. These guys will be your study buddies and will hold your hand through rota issues and patient deaths. They will be friends for life.

2. Be super-organised from the start

There are far too many training hoops, but let’s not go into that. To survive, you need to dedicate weekly time to the ePortfolio and sending tickets for evidence as soon as you start a new job. If you fall behind, don’t go under. Get support at the first opportunity.

3. Spend no more than 10 minutes reflecting on each clinical encounter

Focus on what’s important – how you felt, what you learned and how it will change your practice. If you’re looking for inspiration, watch Carrie Bradshaw reflecting in Sex and the City.

4. Take advantage of all training opportunities

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon; and don’t miss out on amazing training opportunities along the way. From scholarship posts to out-of-programme international experiences, the world is your oyster. You won’t have this chance again.

5. Strive for ‘good enough’

You were top of the class, achieved the best A-level results and were accepted for the most competitive degree. But this high-achieving perfectionism has little relevance in general practice, and may lead to burnout.

6. Remember who’s the boss

By all means, work with patients for shared decision-making, but remember who is signing the prescription. Make sure the management options you offer a patient are reasonable to you before you share them.

7. Have something to go home to

It’s too easy to stay late checking notes and second-guessing your decisions. A life outside work, whether it’s dinner with the kids or a Spanish class, will give you a deadline and ensure you are not over-serving your patients.

8. Embrace complaints

A good doctor is always a nice doctor, but a nice doctor isn’t always a good doctor. You may face complaints, but don’t be afraid of them. Embrace them as validation of good practice (assuming they are unfounded).

9. Embed the day job before diversifying

Lots of GPs ask me how I have achieved a portfolio career. I worked full time for 12 years before seeking other roles. Exiting training is the start of the real learning and this needs time to bed in.

10. The bottom line isn’t the only line

If you are being offered a higher than market salary, it will be for a reason. A good team, equitable workload and protected breaks will ensure you will last longer than your probationary period. Reflect on how important pay is in your wheel of life and develop your career according to your values.

Dr Shaba Nabi is a GP trainer in Bristol