GP Jobs and Careers / Doctor Jobs and Careers
Most of us are familiar with General Practitioners (GPs), who are best known as the so-called family doctors we see at local surgeries. This view may now be a little out-of-date, as the healthcare system has changed considerably over the past two decades. GPs are now seen as the main providers in the 'primary care' sector, i.e., the first point of contact of the health service that people come into contact with when needing medical assistance.
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General practitioners usually work in surgeries, where they may be a partner in the business. They also work in mixed clinics alongside other professionals such as pharmacists or opticians. After being contacted by people with non-emergency medical conditions, the GP may respond by recommending certain courses of action, such as taking particular medications, or by referring the patient on to specialist services in the next level of healthcare, such as specialist clinics and hospitals.
What is Involved in GP Jobs?
Most of the general practitioner's work is conducted in the surgery, carrying out consultations with people who have registered with the practice. They also undertake home visits to people who are too ill to attend. The healthcare services the doctor provides are very broad, as they are trained to diagnose and deal with all kinds of illnesses and conditions. This means they need to be able to draw on an extensive knowledge of medical conditions, knowing how and when to intervene, whether this is through treating a problem or taking preventative measures to maintain good health and circumvent future problems.
Their work in the surgery may therefore involve diagnosing through discussion and diagnostic tests, as well as treating by writing prescriptions for medication and recommending treatment by the healthcare team at the surgery. They may also recommend visits to other kinds of healthcare practitioners in the community.
Are GP Jobs Right for You?
Type of Person Required
If wishing to become a general practitioner, you should recognise that a high level of training and education is involved, as well as ongoing education throughout your career. It is not simply about recognising conditions, but remaining up-to-date with developments in the extensive range of treatments and drugs available. Developments in preventative medicine are also important. Patients are entitled to expect excellent advice, so doctors have a responsibility to remain informed.
You will also need a high level of compassion. This is what will motivate you to keep working long hours and to keep developing knowledge in your GP job, so that you can help your patients in the best way possible. At the same time, however, you need to be able to work with patients without being overly involved - not every outcome is positive, so you need to be able to keep working despite having to deliver bad news or deal with losing patients There is a high level of stress amongst GPs, due to the nature of the work and long hours involved. The more emotionally stable you are, the easier it will be to separate the stresses of work life from home life.
If this career still appeals to you, then you need to decide whether you have the mind to withstand the academic rigours that are part of acquiring knowledge about a vast array of different illnesses and conditions. This variety is what makes the GP job enticing - each surgery session can yield a huge range of needs and problems. Of course, patience may also be needed, as there will invariably be a percentage of people who do not have issues requiring medical treatment and have other motivations for attending surgery, yet who need to be addressed with equal sensitivity.
Besides the sessions in surgery and the community, general practice can offer even more variety. There is the opportunity to contribute to public health campaigns, which aim through education and awareness raising to prevent illness caused by factors such as smoking, diet, lack of exercise, etc. GPs can also work in hospitals as clinical assistants, or in local community hospitals as visiting doctors. Medical students aiming to become GPs also need to trained, so current GPs can work part-time in teaching establishments as course organisers or tutors. There is also the opportunity to contribute to the implementation of health policy at a regional level by serving on local medical committees or with the primary care groups.
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The British Medical Journal (BMJ) website provides the following personal qualities as being essential for a career as a general practitioner.
- An empathetic and sensitive nature and approach to other people.
- The ability to interact with patients in an understanding manner.
- Strong verbal communication skills.
- The genuine desire to help patients and their families, with minor and major medical issues.
- The ability to listen to patients and colleagues alike, engaging in a genuinely open dialogue without prejudgement.
- The ability to meet the academic challenge to build clinical knowledge and expertise, matching this with case-based knowledge.
- Interest and commitment to constantly updating knowledge and improving one's own performance.
- The ability to apply sound clinical knowledge and awareness to a full investigation signs and symptoms. "
- As an abstract thinker, the ability to think conceptually and solve problems.
- Detail orientation and the desire to investigate to the root cause of problems.
- A high level of personal and professional integrity.
- The capacity to take responsibility for one's individual actions and decisions, plus the motivation to do so.
- The ability to work consistently under pressure, without any cost to accuracy.
- An awareness of individual limitation and the willingness to work in a team to maximise benefits to the patient.
- High levels of personal organisation and administration skills.
- The ability to prioritise tasks from amongst high workloads, delegating as and when necessary.
- Where appropriate, management abilities, including staff supervisory skills, staff motivation, communication skills, team decision making, budgeting, etc.
This GP career frequently offers opportunities for part-time or flexible working. Currently, Doctors are not obliged to work weekends or evenings. Otherwise, working hours are 8.30am-6.30pm, or an average of 50+ hours per week. Out of hours working, which some practices opt to do, will involve on-call work and weekends or public holiday duties.
Qualifications Required For a Doctor's Job
If you are still in school, you can help to prepare for a career as a general practitioner by taking appropriate classes. Take mathematics and science classes, particularly ones in biology, chemistry and physics. You can also improve your communication skills by taking English classes. If your school offers psychology classes, then consider these because you can learn about human biology and the links between body and mind.
All doctors need to first complete a five-year degree in medicine that is recognised by the General Medical Council. Medical schools vary, with some being more oriented towards surgery than others, so it is important to research schools carefully.
Entry requirements usually include A-levels in science subjects and maths, with high grades (i.e. A-A-B). This is followed by a two-year foundation programme of general and higher surgical training. For those without the science subjects, six year degree courses may be available, featuring a one-year foundation course. Graduates with a non-medical honours degree in a science subject can apply to a four-year graduate entry programme.
After this first five years, doctors receive their primary medical qualification - MBBS, MBChB, BM, or MB. Doctors then enter a two-year Foundation Programme which provides trainee doctors with a grounding in practical medicine and core clinical skills.
Finally, doctors must complete specialist training of two years of hospital rotations and at least a year of on-the-job training as a GP Registrar in a practice.
Salaries and Prospects
Working full-time in your doctor's job even without the weekend or evening work, it is still possible to achieve a relatively high income at an early career stage. The majority of GPs are independent contractors to the NHS, with appropriate premises and staff to fulfil a primary care role. This alone brings the average income for a GP to around £110,000. For practices that also include a pharmacy, annual income can be over £200,000. The practice can earn additional income through participation in drugs trials, etc.