Part time clinical lecturer and GP with special interest in palliative care, Manchester
Why palliative care?
One year after qualifying, I was looking for a challenge to my day to day role as a GP. I worked as a part-time locum GP in a handful of local practices as a stop-gap before relocating to a bigger city to join my then future husband.
I had little experience of palliative care in my training and so when the local CCG invited GPs to study for a Certificate in Practical Palliative Care (fees paid), I jumped at the chance.
The Certificate involved completing weekly essays and regular meetings with an allocated mentor (I was assigned a Hospice Consultant), together with a week-long placement at a Hospice, followed by submission of a dissertation.
How did I use the specialist knowledge?
Following completion of the certificate, the opportunity arose to become a clinical assistant in palliative care at the same Hospice, giving me valuable clinical exposure to consolidate my knowledge. Due to competing demands on my time, namely the development of another special interest and moving roles to a salaried GP, I ended my weekly session as a clinical assistant after 5-6 months.
The chance to make a meaningful difference actually arose at my GP Practice 3 years later when I used palliative care knowledge to study how end of life care was managed and documented at my practice following a trigger event. Discovering that, like many practices at the time, we had short-comings, I produced a resource and delivered training to help team members improve on this area and reported how we had improved on several measures on our end of life care practice, months after the intervention.
I presented aspects of the work to the wider medical community at the RCGP Annual Conference (Liverpool 2017) through a poster presentation. I had some great conversations with like-minded GPs who wanted to implement a similar tool and was advised to apply for a RCGP “Bright Ideas” Award.
What happened to work/life balance?
Like many of my peers, I value the work/life balance that a career in General Practice provides. Though studying for a post-graduate certificate was no doubt challenging and required dedication, I managed to run several 10K races, did my first half marathon, and had the trip of a lifetime on Safari in South Africa within that year. Having a robust support network, being motivated to make a difference to patient care and planning ahead were the keystones of success. The aforementioned wedding didn’t happen, but my career certainly took off!
Summary and conclusion
Developing a special interest as a GP brings variety to your working week, opens up a wealth of opportunities and provides a great sense of satisfaction when you do produce an improvement in the quality of care that can span across whole primary care teams. We are never “just a GP” and I am delighted that a cultural shift is underfoot that values the diversity and impact we have as practitioners in primary care.