As a medical student, there is an exciting journey ahead of you with some important choices to make. One day you are trying to catch up with all of your classes and cramming for exams. Then suddenly you find yourself a resident and you’re asked to make a key decision. What is the specialty you want to pursue? Is it Cardiology? Pediatrics? Trauma? ER? Neurologist?
The different specialties sound as exciting as they are scary. Each of them comes with their special road and different hardships, yet they all offer their unique kind of thrill too. Medical students should also give very serious thought to becoming a general practitioner (GP). It’s a career that offers daily challenges, but a lifetime of reward where you can see the impact on your patients over many years.
What do General Practitioners do?
General Practitioners are the first to meet the patients. They work to gain their trust, and are able to understand their needs, diagnosis different conditions and refer them to specialized physicians to carry out further testing or treatment. General Practitioners can also carry out administrative work, especially if they are running their own practice.
If you are contemplating a career as a general practitioner, here are 10 very rewarding reasons why you should:
1. Build an everlasting relationship with your patients
As the first face to meet the patients, you quickly become their source of comfort, trust, and reassurance. You get the chance to know each of your patient intimately. As they grow to trust you, their problems become something you own. You eventually hear stories that these patients can trust no one else with, from the stories of personal drama to how they manage the chronic diseases they might suffer daily from. And sometimes, years later, your patients still come to you for advice and to share with you the happy way their life turned around because of you. Your role doesn’t stop at the procedure you’ve done or the prescription you gave, but rather, you build an everlasting personal connection with your patients.
2. You get to diagnose, prescribe, and treat
Unlike the case with specialties, as a GP, you will carry out many roles as a physician and a personal advocate for your patients. But even more, you get to practice every step of medicine, starting with diagnosing patients, prescribing them the needed medications, and following up with their treatment plans.
3. Forget specialties, you have the whole human body to treat
Instead of being stuck in the same organ to treat for the rest of your life, the life of GP is one where no two days are the same. You have a new case and a new puzzle in every exam room and you have the whole body to surprise you.
4. You can still sub-specialize if you want
That does not mean you can’t specialize if you want to, you still can! GP training typically offers you the opportunity to sub-specialize in any of the departments: for example, pediatrics, emergency, anesthesia, or any other specialty.
5. You get to work and enjoy your life
One of the best perks of being a GP is that you get to have work-life balance. You can choose to take more shifts, enjoy a set 9-5 work schedule, work as a part-timer, or even be self-employed and follow your own path. The choice is all yours!
6. You do not have to worry about your income
If you’re worried that the income might not be that satisfying, then you’ll find relief in knowing that it’s one of the best paid jobs. A recent salary survey by Medical Recruitment Australia shows that the average income rate for a full-time GP ranges between $200,000 to $300,000 a year. This can go even higher than $500,000 a year if you decide to take on more shifts, manage chronic cases, or complete procedures. Wages vary by country, but GPs always earn a solid living.
7. A shorter road that is both flexible and well-funded
Your road into becoming a GP is one of the easiest, in comparison to other specialities. GP training usually takes three to four years to complete. Moreover, you’ll find a lot of funding and incentives provided by the government to practice as a GP in the rural areas.
8. Getting to share authentic human experiences
On your job, you will get to meet patients of all different backgrounds and cultures. You will meet the well to do and the struggling poor, you can meet citizens of the fast-paced cities and inhabitants of rural areas. You will meet the old, the young, professionals, and the misfits. And as their GP, you serve them all with equal vigor. You’ll hear their life stories and you will get to witness the authentic human experience from many different perspectives and backgrounds.
9. Where do you want to go next? It’s up to you
As a GP, you’ll find a job anywhere you decide to move. With the flexible career that you have, you can choose where and how you want to work. You can work in a hospital, aim for the rural areas, or open your own GP surgery and run your own business alongside your medical profession.
10. You develop your skills on both professional and personal levels
With everything a medical career as a GP offers, you’ll find that you’ve learned way more than what you first bargained for. Given the broad range of patients, their differing health issues and the many specialists you can interact with during any given shift, the specialty gives you both professional and personal skills to widen your perspective - both as a doctor and a human being.
Through pursuing a medical career as a general practitioner, you’ll get to see life and medicine through completely different eyes. With every patient, with every story and human experience you witness, you get to know more about yourself and human nature. You’ll also get to practice medicine as a whole, finding a new puzzle every day. Add to those benefits into that the balance you can also have to live your own life, the flexible career choices, the attractive pay, and the short road you need to take to get there, and it is a vocation you should consider very seriously.