Career Stories - Dr Grace Vas
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Dr Grace Vas

GP Principal and GP Trainer
Mill Road Surgery, Sheffield

When I was finishing my pre-registration house officer year, I was drawn to two specialities – Ear, Nose and Throat and General Practice. The lure of surgery, both major neck dissections and microsurgery in ENT, was there but I had enjoyed my placements during medical school at various GP surgeries, both rural and urban. Eventually, I decided that I wanted a job where I didn’t know what to expect from the next patient: a jaundiced two-week old baby, a 99 year old man on end-of-life care, the teenager filled with anxiety because of bullying, the painful shoulder of a builder who was the only breadwinner of the family or the woman with a cotton bud stuck in her ear. I have never looked back!

Being a GP puts you in a very privileged position as sometimes you are told things that someone has never shared with anyone else in their life. And because you can be involved with dad, mum, grandparents, in-laws, exes, mistresses, children, siblings, and neighbours, you are also very privileged to see the dynamism happening in your patients’ lives. You watch them grow from the four-week old baby to an adult having their own children. We also play a role in the patients’ relationships with their consultants and being able to converse with colleagues in secondary care to coordinate holistic care is extremely rewarding.

I work half of the week clinically and spend the rest of the time doing strategic, managerial and educational work. I sit on the steering group of the Primary Care Network in which my practice belongs. As part of the DES (contract), the network aims to provide more bespoke services in a proactive fashion to the patient population of the 5 member practices. We ran a nurse outreach service for greater wraparound services to our housebound and frail. We are working with other stakeholders in establishing a child and adolescent support service for low-level mental health needs – there is currently a gap in this in our area. All these have developed my skill in strategic planning. Tied in with that, as a GP principal, understanding finances and management and human resource makes the daily life interesting especially when it ties in so closely with the clinical needs of the patients. Being a small practice, it is easier to evaluate the needs of our patients and as a partnership make changes to directly benefit them. Having to do this within the resources we have makes problem-solving a much needed skill. Educationally, I have GP registrars training in practice with me. I also supervise trainees from afar, watching them grow from their first to their final years of training. I sit on ARCP panels which can be eye-opening to hear the experiences and reflections of trainees in their learning.

Working as flexibly as this has allowed me to also manage my three children and their various needs. I’m extremely fortunate to be supported by my GP husband and together we are able to balance our family needs with our work needs, being there for the school concerts, sports days, spending the evening with the kids before knuckling down to work. I have time for myself too, running in the lovely woods that Sheffield has to offer and doing the occasional reading and sewing!

General practice is full of challenges and complexities but the diversity of work makes it interesting and rewarding. The chocolates at Christmas and the cards at anniversaries of deaths of relatives, thanking you for the love and care you’ve given and the occasional home-made brew is always welcome. My colleague has even had a poem written for her! The community-based approach of our work is exactly the reason why it offers a beautiful career. I definitely recommend it for those who don’t want a boring life!

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