14 Jan A quick chat with….a lifestyle GP
Why did you choose general practice?
It was during my rotation in F2 that my eyes were opened up to GP life. I loved seeing patients of all ages and not knowing who might walk in the door. I could see myself enjoying the variety and this was important to me for long-term job satisfaction. When I was faced with deciding whether to take up a post I’d been offered in core medical training or one in general practice, it was an easy decision to make in the end. I wanted to learn how to be a good generalist and no other specialty had the same pull. I’d also met some inspirational doctors in primary care who had shown me how multi-faceted a career in general practice can be. The job offers many opportunities to expand your skillset and make a difference to healthcare locally and beyond, and that matters to me in the long run.
Would you choose it again?
Yes. Few branches of medicine outside of general practice would allow so much variety in one week and it does keep things interesting. I’m one of a growing number of GPs choosing a portfolio career. During a typical week, I am seeing patients on most days, teaching a GP registrar, working on practice management and helping with issues affecting local GPs through my role with the LMC. I tend to have a few projects on the go. I’m involved with consulting work in the arena of health technology and developing my interests in lifestyle medicine and health coaching. I’m currently on a leadership programme called Next Generation GP and it’s great to meet so many new, enthusiastic GPs who want to make an impact in primary care. I feel proud of the profession I’m in. I’ve also met some of my closest friends and the loveliest people through my work as a GP and I would choose it again for that reason too!
What advice you wish you were given in your first year as a GP?
This list could be very long on what I wish I had been told! I’ll offer a few golden nuggets if I can. It is more challenging and rewarding than you’ll ever be prepared for but I think that’s part of the beauty of general practice. You will never know everything and that’s okay – learning carries on both inside and outside of the consulting room for as long as you’re a GP. Never lose your motivation to learn. When you’re seeing so many patients in one day, it is easy to lose your enthusiasm. Try to treat each patient with interest, be curious about their individual story, regardless of whether they have a minor illness or a complex medical history. Every patient is unique and can teach you something new as well as highlight something about yourself as a doctor. Keep asking yourself if you’re being the type of GP you aspire to be and adjust accordingly.
Work/life balance – is it possible or is it a myth?
As a GP trainee, I distinctly remember my life being a blur of nightshifts, weekend on calls and regrets about missing major events with loved ones. I am sure any doctor reading this will identify that it can be tough to achieve that elusive ‘work/life balance’ and I haven’t always been great at getting it right. I’ve made a conscious effort in the last couple of years to make time for life outside of medicine, from pursuing art again which I loved at school to making a yoga and meditation class on Sunday evenings to help start my week off in a relaxed mindset. Although it does take planning and effort, its well worth it. Every GP has a different situation and you have to figure out what can work for you. It helps to check in regularly and do a little self-appraisal on yourself to find out how you’re doing in various areas of your life. If something is out of balance, ask yourself why and what needs to happen in order to make it better. It won’t happen overnight and don’t be too hard on yourself. There are various coaching tools that I recommend to trainees, friends and colleagues – it’s worth having a look at this. A well balanced and healthy life has many components and we should pay attention to the other areas of our life in the same way we would advise our patients.
Where do you see the future of general practice?
I strongly believe in the value of preventative and lifestyle medicine – you can see my thoughts in this blog. The movement continues to grow strong and I hope older as well as new GPs will continue to embrace it. We are in a powerful position as GPs to help change how patients look after themselves and prevent and manage chronic disease. This will ease pressure on our health care system and more attention is needed here and I hope we will be more focussed on this in the future. I’m keen to increase my knowledge and attending courses on lifestyle medicine and helping with a project on culinary medicine for Doctors. Culinary medicine is on the map for the medical school curriculum too and this will have a positive knock on effect on the type of GPs we have in the future . The other massive area of growth for general practice is through advancing technology. We have to find ways of working smarter as we are working harder than ever before. Technology and artificial intelligence can be used as a tool to help GPs and reduce workload – though not to replace us. We are shaping into a new era of general practice already.
Dr Sumi Baruah is a portfolio GP in South London and passionate about the future of the healthcare system and primary care. She has a keen interest in efficiency and innovation to sustain and improve general practice. Dr Baruah is a partner, trainer and LMC representative in Greenwich. Dr Baruah has an interest in lifestyle and preventative medicine and is an accredited Health Coach with the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC).