It is a great time to be a GP

A letter to medical students and young doctors

Following our series of articles on GP as a career, we asked Dr Will Taylor, an established but still young GP, to talk about his career choice and why he enjoys the challenge.

The question ‘Why be a GP’ prompted a lot of soul searching on my part. Certainly it is not an easy option, or a choice all doctors would make. My wife is a psychiatrist and she thinks that the pace of work and the number of patients we see each day is a deterrent, and the sheer breadth of the specialty unnerves her. These are challenges I relish and, even now, 10 years after passing my MRCGP, I am still very much enjoying my career and wouldn’t change it for the world.

Finding my way

As a bright eyed House Officer (the precursor to an FY1) I had no real idea where my career was going. I did the standard 6 months surgery and 6 months medicine jobs. In surgery, I worked with a great team who were very supportive and did their best to include me and develop my skills, and it was really this personal approach that led to my decision to join a surgical training rotation.

Despite the initial attraction, I soon realized that surgery wasn’t for me. The people I worked with were brilliant, however, after having seen yet another perfectly performed knee replacement from the end of a retractor, it dawned on me that I would much prefer to see a wider variety of clinical challenges. (It doesn’t help that my attention span is about ten minutes, so concentrating on any one thing for longer than that is a struggle.) Luckily there was lots of A&E and ITU on the rotation I was on, and I decided to continue for some time to gain my emergency medicine membership.

But still there was something missing. I loved the turnover, and the variety, but I was often left wanting to know what subsequently happened to the fascinating people I met, patched up and sent home. (I am by nature quite a nosey person, an essential GP trait!)

In those days you could take a GP registrar post for 6 months so I thought I would give it a go, before committing permanently to emergency medicine. The rest, as they say, is history. I loved it. It offered clinical variety, longer term relationships with patients, and insight into the amazing interaction of organic pathology and psychology, all sewn up into discrete 10 minute parcels!

Working as a partner

I was lucky enough to go straight into a great partnership, and I can honestly say I haven’t looked back since. I have a personal list of 2000 patients who I have grown to know and like (and occasionally dislike) over the last 10 years. All of whom are fascinating for one reason or another. And it is a personal relationship like no other in medicine. I know them, their families and how they interact with each other, and I see how a patient’s ‘life’ influences their reaction to illness.

Beyond the patients it is a career that has grown with me. I am a partner, which is not a fashionable career choice right now, but I would not change this. It means that I am an independent contractor to the NHS, so I run my own business. Before you groan and say ”that’s not why I studied medicine”, consider this – as partners running the practice, we can make decisions on how we provide our services, rather than a faceless manager higher up the chain in a hospital trust. We employ our staff, so if we don’t feel something is working well, the power to change it is in our hands rather than some far off committee. We own our building, so if we want a new room, we can build one. I feel in charge of my own destiny, and many studies and my own experience have shown this is key to high levels of job satisfaction.

Just a few (out of many) positives

It is undeniably hard work, and it is frustrating that resources are so tight right now, but it remains a job with immense rewards.

The variety in what I do in a working week is amazing. I train GP registrars and medical students, and over the last few years I have gone down the clinical leadership route and become one of the managing partners in our practice. I have worked for the CCG and overseen improvements in how we provide respiratory and cancer care. More recently I have been closely involved in creating a super partnership in Birmingham through the merger of 32 practices, something that is already opening up new opportunities and career avenues.

The choice of job roles is amazing as well. One of my partners does sessions as a hospital dermatologist, another is a team doctor for a football team, and others spend time looking after complex diabetic patients. This is work previously done in secondary care, and it is potentially the tip of an ever increasing iceberg of new ways of working we are now developing in primary care.

Like all specialities, general practice has challenges but it is changing rapidly and the development opportunities are actually increasing. It is a great time to be a GP.

Author – Dr Will Taylor, GP

Managing Partner – Our Health Partnership

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