Amy Pickles, Locum GP and Occupational Health

What is your current role – what was your path to get here?
My current role is very varied! I split my weekly sessions between General Practice (working as a locum), the NHS Grampian Occupational Health Service and the GMED Out of Hour Service. I suppose I am what is described as a portfolio GP as I have several areas of interest which I like to explore and develop both within and out-with my work as a GP. I work in a flexible manner – to suit my non-work commitments – working for 2weeks and then taking 2weeks off. In my off-time I live in France!
I undertook my post-graduate GP training in Bath. I moved to Aberdeen following completion of my training and was successful in securing a Career Start Post with a specialist interest in Occupational Medicine. I had not worked in this area before but I like to explore new options and love a challenge and was interested in it as an area I had not previously considered and felt that it would complement General Practice well. I have certainly developed an interest in it! During my Career Start year I undertook the Occupational Medicine Diploma, as well as a TREC travel medicine course, and as part of my role in the Occupational Health Department took leadership of the GO Health Services Travel Clinic. Alongside this I worked as a GP in a local practice and undertook out of hours shifts as part of my Career Start contract. On completing the Career Start year I was able to continue with my Occupational Health and GMED sessions and decided to change my pattern of working to fit in with ‘life outside of medicine’. This has worked well for me, I enjoy the variety of GP locum work but am able to keep continuity with patients by securing longer-term locums most of the time.

What does your role involve?

As a GP I work as a locum and out of hours contractor. Within my locum work I am able to offer particular skills in women’s health and sexual health through previous and ongoing learning and qualifications in these areas. I tend to try to work for one practice at a time to maintain continuity and am often able to be involved in supporting Medical Students in and out of clinics and assist with chronic disease management clinics.
Occupational Medicine is a lot more varied than it first seems. I have many roles within the department and there is plenty of flexibility to discover and move into new areas as they arise. As an Occupational Physician DOccMed I see a variety of patients in my clinic, both from within and out-with NHSG. I provide support and advice to employees and employers in this role. I also take a role in reviewing health surveillance policies within the department. As the Medical Lead for GO Health Travel Clinic I am expected to ensure the service is running effectively in terms of cost as well as line with clinical governance. I have instigated a regular meeting session which as a team we use for clinical updates, feedback and SEAs. I subscribe to the journal of Occupational Medicine as part of my Society of Occupational Medicine membership and regularly peer review papers for them. Within the OHS team I am involved in in-house teaching and updates as well as Undergraduate and GPST teaching, mentoring and support. I am also accredited to undertake Oil and Gas Medicals for external clients and undertake Hyperbaric Medicals for those working in the hyperbaric chamber within NHSG.

What influenced your decision to be a GP?

I have an interest in many areas of medicine and found it difficult to narrow this down when trying to consider specialty options - I discovered that working as a GP was the best way to pursue different fields. I enjoy the rounded and holistic approach one can take as a GP and the relationship we have with our patients - which can be very different to that in secondary care. I was also aware that General Practice was a career which could be as diverse and flexible as I wanted it to be and since working in this field I have realised how true this is.

What do you think about your career now?

I love my career. Every day is different. I feel very fortunate to work across several fields which provide many different opportunities for career progression and expansion. If I think back to what I thought I wanted to do after completing my GP training in 2010 I could not have imagined my career as it is now, I’m not sure I knew what a portfolio GP was. For me it is the perfect career choice - whichever medical ‘hat’ I have on I’m challenged daily and feel very fulfilled.

What do you like most about your work?

The different challenges every day brings and the work-life balance I have created. Having a career across several fields I have many opportunities to branch out in different directions and I take them as often as possible! The diversity of my day-day work as well as the pattern in which I work can seem strange and over-complicated to some (and certainly it requires a degree of organisation) but I feel that, for me, I have a perfect work-life balance and I certainly never feel bored with my career choice!

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