I never thought I would find myself working for something as cheesy sounding as The Joy of General Practice. And I didn’t expect to then be working where I am right now. Therein lies the essence of a career as a GP – the opportunities are endless and varied, though very much dependent on our commitments elsewhere in life, not to mention the need at times for a wee sprinkling of courage.
As GP trainees we all have ideas of what we think we are looking for from general practice. Very often those ideas are based on our experiences to date, which can be limited. Training practices are often quite rightly seen as exemplars of practice – well organised, well staffed, and with a supportive environment. The reality of the post training world can be quite different – struggles to provide cover, overwhelming workload, challenging personalities and a finger-in-the-dyke approach out of necessity. Why is that? How can we spread the positive experience of most training practices to help and enhance those where the biggest challenges lie? Do we just continue feeding the well run practices with trainees who have experienced little else, while leaving other practices to struggle?
We all like to feel comfortable and there are times in our working life when that is what we need. The last 20 years as a partner and trainer in a comfortably ticking along training practice has been that for me, and I am grateful for the experience, stability and patient connection that I have had. Before arriving there, varied locum and overseas experience gave me fantastic perspective and memories to last a lifetime - my own wee bit of courage took me off to rural Canada immediately after GP training with no regrets. It has left me with a longstanding itch to keep exploring the breadth of what being a GP actually means.
The Scotland Support Team of the Joy of General Practice project has at its heart an opportunity to scratch that itch and once again provide new challenges, while at the same time allowing me to both share and broaden my experience. I would have loved this kind of organised opportunity when I finished my GP training more than 20 years ago to see what was out there, but there’s now a different dimension in doing it at the other end of my career. Like any newly qualified GP I have to prove myself in different places with different people, learn new systems, adapt to different philosophies and hopefully help where help is needed. The added value may come from my own past experience, though that could be a hindrance if not carefully applied. Time will tell. So far, it has been all of fun, frustrating, eye opening, challenging and rewarding – what General Practice should be, in my view.
There are some newly qualified GPs who have joined the Joy team and I look forward to catching up with them. I hugely admire their courage in putting themselves forward for situations that may well be outwith the comfort zone of their training practices. They will be rewarded for that courage by finding an ability to turn their hand to anything, anywhere. This will in time make it easier to find work that gives a level of comfort, stability and challenge that really suits where they are at in their lives. If it also enables and empowers the development of practices without the structures and standards offered by Training Practice accreditation, then we may ultimately help Scottish general practice as a whole towards a better place.
Who knows, we all might even find a wee bit of joy while we’re at it too.