The weighty task of choosing a specialty can be hard, particularly when you love it all. Paediatrics will give you the variety you enjoy, but then what about the buzz from working in adult emergency medicine? The problem-solving nature of surgery really appeals but so does the challenge of anaesthetics, and what about the thrill of obstetrics and gynaecology, or the puzzle of mental health? If you’re having a hard time choosing, read on, because you’re not alone.
While some junior doctors know exactly what specialty they want to practice, many don’t. Many senior doctors faced the same dilemmas in their early careers before landing and staying in general practice.
Reason 1: You want to do everything
Dr Ewan McPhee chose general practice because he wanted to do everything.
“For me, particularly in rural general practice, you look after people from the cradle to the grave,” he says. “I could deliver babies, I could look after pregnant mums, I could give anaesthetics, and provide some operations for the community.”
Ewan has carved out a long and successful career as a GP. He has been a medical educator at GPTQ and is president of Rural Doctors Association of Australia. (And he flies a recreational plane in his spare time.)
Reason 2: You have diverse clinical interests
Dr Carolyn Russel agrees that general practice allows her to dip into different medical specialties.
“I love the spectrum of presentations,” she says. Carolyn is a GP counsellor and medical educator at GPTQ. She supervises young GPs and mentors those who are interested in mental health.
“It’s never boring. There’s always something that surprises you or challenges you in general practice if you put your heart into it. If you do your own suturing, if you do your own emergency care, there’s such a surprising array of medicine to see and to learn. It’s a brilliant discipline.”
Reason 3: You enjoy seeing a broad spectrum of patients
Many established GPs began their careers outside medicine. Dr Ben Mitchell began his university education studying engineering. He was unhappy and, in his second year, switched to medicine with the view of becoming a GP. He has no regrets.
“Being a generalist, you see everything,” Ben says. “I enjoy seeing a new baby and mum, then an 88-year-old lady and everything in between. I get to know my patients and take an interest in their lives. It makes my job much more enjoyable.”
Ben also likes the opportunity to provide the first diagnosis that comes with being a GP.
Follow your calling
Dr John de Vries is one of GPTQ’s longest serving medical educators. He has practised general practice in rural Queensland, and Brisbane, and encourages junior doctors to follow their passion.
“If you want to be an orthopaedic surgeon, do it,” John says. “If you’re the doctor who likes every rotation that you do, and everything seems interesting, you should be a GP because general practice is the only place where you can do a little bit of everything.”
There are many good reasons to choose general practice. It’s worth considering a career as a GP if you’re interested in practising a variety of medicine. The next decision then becomes: what should you sub-specialise in?