Salaried GP Surrey. Lead roles in practice (prescribing and learning disabilities), programme lead for Next Generation GP and Frimley Aspiring Leaders Programme at the Frimley Training Hub, GP joint lead for Mental Health Integrated Community Service (MHICS) in Farnham, designated prescribing practitioner for PCN allied health professionals. Voluntary roles include being a BMJ peer reviewer, ILE mentor and Springpod guest speaker.
By the time you read this, there’s a good chance you’ll be weighing up the merits of general practice over hospital medicine. I hope this account helps you make your decision.
General practice can offer you flexibility, whether this is clinical variety or the chance to follow a ‘portfolio career.’ Being a GP enables you to challenge your capabilities and the scope keeps you engaged. Increasingly the role is more flexible, not only offering sessional work but also remote working which can be an added bonus for some. Whether you want to do a couple of clinic sessions a week and fill the rest of your time with interests or an array of other roles, general practice comes with a lot to offer. For me, it’s a rewarding career that not only helps my personal and professional growth but has also allowed me to build relationships with my patients over time and become their trusted doctor.
The portfolio GP
Having a portfolio career is one of the main reasons I became a GP. I saw it as an opportunity to ‘spread my wings.’ While being a good, if not great GP should be your main goal on newly qualifying, there is no reason why you cannot explore further options that add value to your career. Clinical practice is intense and one of the ways I reenergise, other than ensuring a healthy work life balance, is to add variety with different types of work and having that sense of autonomy that comes with picking and choosing my projects or roles or my direction of travel. If you thrive on a dynamic career general practice is the path for you where the sky is the limit. Whether you want to dabble in TV, journalism, commissioning, legal work, being a GP with a special interest or anything else, the choices are infinite.
How did I get my roles? A short recipe for quick results!
1. ‘Finding your tribe.’
First and foremostly, I prioritised working in a practice where I ‘fitted in.’ Having work colleagues that are personable, supportive and as a whole organisation share similar values to you is really the first ingredient to a happy and successful working environment. Some people locum in several practices to find this, others talk to other GPs to get a sense of the practice culture or if you’re lucky like me, to be in a training practice that you like as a registrar then it’s even better. Salaried, locum and GP partnership are options to think about but I won’t discuss them in detail here. My only advice regarding this is do not think of your career as being stunted if you are not a GP partner. Being a GP partner is not necessarily career ‘progression.’ I would suggest seeing it as a career ‘option’ instead as there is no linear path of career progression as a GP.
2. Having an impact.
When it comes to having an impact on your patients, colleagues or communities, you don’t need to be a GP partner to achieve this. If you find the right working environment where you can showcase your strengths, express your interests and have colleagues that champion your talent, you are more than halfway there. So, this leads me to answer the primary question. For most of my roles, I did not seek them but instead they sought me.
3. Never underestimate the power of networking.
Never underestimate the power of networking and the people around you. If you want to have a portfolio career, make it a priority to actively network; find out about the people you work with in your micro and mesosystem- who they are, what they do, their sphere of influence, their areas of interest and start building relationships! Again, share your interests and showcase your strengths then opportunities are likely to open like they did for me.
4. Always refocus your attitude if necessary. Reflection is mandatory.
Positivity, enthusiasm, a willingness to be open and understanding and sharing your learning as much as your credit is important to take people along with you as a leader. This leadership style energises and inspires others. Years on from qualifying as a GP, colleagues still ask where I get my energy and enthusiasm from, expecting it to dwindle. But I am determined to not let that happen! And this is how…
Looking inward is as important as looking outward. Reflecting on your decisions, situations and the feedback received (remember feedback is a gift) is a way to check-in on yourself and make sure you are addressing your needs and then altering the balance if necessary. This is vital to ensuring your attitude is always the best it can be to serve yourself and others.
5. This is just the start.
Starting out in general practice is a lot about understanding the environments of where you work and how they interact, building relationships and just learning the ropes of being a good GP. So far, I have talked about choosing an environment that is right for you and working this environment to allow opportunities to open up. However, as you progress with your general practice career, by all means set your sights on something beyond the horizon that you may need to go searching for. It’s all part of the adventure.
I have shared what has worked for me so far. I hope this piece serves you well in taking a brave step forward with conviction, into the world of general practice that always has a lot to offer. I for one, have embarked on some training on coaching and next year will look to do a mentoring course. My enthusiasm and excitement in this journey continues…