GPs- up to their elbows in humanity

In medical school we made paper fortune tellers (a hark back to primary school) to see which specialty we’d end up joining. I highly recommend paper fortune tellers as a decision making aid.

I got psychiatry, which pleased me as it’s human brain-related and I was all about neurology back then. My tutor said ‘Yeah I can see you as a shrink. You’re quite… laid back.’ I’d wondered if she was commenting on my near horizontal position in my chair. At early morning sessions I was so laid back I’d be nearly asleep. I’m an afternoon kinda gal.

We discussed our fortunes and our wishes with another tutor, who commented that cardiology, as one of us wanted to do, was ‘pretty sexy.’ I’m glad to say he really was talking about the specialty and not my good-looking friend, or this’d be a whole different post.

When the sights, sighs, secrets and smells of the GP consulting room threaten to overwhelm, well might we think ‘there’s nothing sexy about general practice.’

We’d be wrong.

I grew up with a GP parent and thought of her colleagues as extended family, so my early impressions of the career have been impossible to shake. These were grass-roots country doctors, stitching cuts, taking blood, delivering babies, counselling and empathising. All with a twinkle in the eye and an air of tired-but-calm patience.

Now a GP myself, I am well aware of the challenges and frustrations of the job, but I like to think about its good points as much as possible.

The beauty of general practice, lies partly in its breadth and thoroughness. GPs get their hands dirty. We don’t just adjust our pince-nez and peer down at your new mole. We’ll measure it, feel its surface, get out our dermatoscope and ogle it. Got a sore foot? We’re down on our knees. Got pus? We’ll be there with a swab. Got an itch in your ear? Never fear, your GP’s here, otoscope in hand. No problem is too big, or too small.

If you look at our faces as we examine something you deem shameful or embarrassing, you’ll see interest, curiosity and concern, not horror or disgust. It’s comforting and reassuring to know your doctor accepts you, warts, pus and all.

We love the variety of our jobs. You can come in to discuss your OCD and we’ll happily look at your rash as well (if there’s time- please book a long appointment if you want the full service)!

Another plus is the GP’s versatility. We can see your baby, your partner, your father, your eccentric great uncle- and some suitably qualified GPs will even see your dog. We’ll see babies grow up, see people retire, watch as an illness wreaks havoc on lives, watch recovery unfold gracefully and hope return to sad eyes.

We’ve got skills. We can wield a speculum, insert contraceptive implants, biopsy your skin, help you quit smoking, check your prostate, and teach you relaxation techniques (which come in handy if you’re having your prostate checked). We can question you gently but in a way that uncovers hidden issues.

We are the ultimate holistic practitioners. We’re at home with the foibles and vulnerabilities of the human mind; the functions and malfunctions of the human body. The good GP is approachable, understanding, capable and wise.

Now that’s pretty damn sexy.

Photo from Wikipedia page ‘Paper Fortune Teller’.

Please comment below if you’d like to mention anything else that’s fabulous about general practice! Or to correct my spelling.

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