What general practice is…
General practice is a challenging and interesting specialty. In most cases General Practitioners (GPs) are the first point of contact for the patient’s health problems.
There is a wide diversity, not only in the type of conditions that GPs see, but also in the stages at which they present. GPs see and treat a lot of common conditions, but they also see rare conditions particularly at an early stage.
GPs are expert diagnosticians responsible for differentiating and prioritising an array of otherwise undifferentiated problems that are brought in by the patients. They make selective use of the wide range of diagnostic modalities and health care resources available at their disposal.
GPs derive tremendous satisfaction from the long-term trusting relationships that they form with their patients. Unlike in other specialties, the doctor-patient relationship in general practice is not limited by the nature of the illness, the life stage of the patient, or the treatment modalities offered by the doctor. This also means that general practice is an ideal setting to offer preventative care and public health promotion.
What general practice isn’t…
Medical students and junior doctors often have a misconception that GPs are the equivalent of Resident Medical Officers (RMOs) in the community and they manage only the trivial conditions (like coughs and colds) and refer the rest.
It’s true, GPs do see coughs and colds, check blood pressure and issue repeat prescriptions, but GPs also:
- perform procedures – removal of skin tumours, incision and drainage of an abscess, implanon insertion, etc
- counsel and manage patients with depression and anxiety
- conduct health checks and assessments
- diagnose and manage of new breast lumps
- diagnose and manage children with eczema and asthma
- follow up and up-titrate medications for a patient with poorly controlled diabetes
- visit residential aged care facilities to see a patient with worsening confusion
- undertake a home visit to an elderly patient with abdominal pain
- and much, much more!
As you can see there is tremendous variety in general practice. Contrary to popular belief, they see and manage plenty of serious and potentially life threatening conditions.