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Working In General Practice

Dr Alastair McLennan discusses his role as a GP.
My name is Alastair McLennan and I’m a GP in southeast Glasgow. So why is general practise the best job in medicine? I started medical school with no desire to be a GP, finished medical school with no desire to be a GP, and now I want to persuade you it is the best job in medicine. My job’s quite hard to describe. You’ll hear all about general practise in the media, often when politicians are moaning about how poor access is if you have a cough or a sore throat. What you don’t hear about is all the good work we do. I don’t want to spend my time seeing people for coughs and sore throats.
I trained too hard and I know too much just to do that. I want to actually make a difference in the community I work in. Being a GP allows you to really get to know your patients. You might see them over 30 years of their lives. I have older patients regularly telling me that they were born into my practise. There’s a sense of security in them knowing their doctor, they rarely actually call is their GP. I see multi generations of families and knowing what’s going on in their lives lets me tend better to their medical needs. I talked to many colleagues about their jobs, asking them what they enjoyed about it. Interestingly, nobody said they didn’t.
Everybody said they loved the variety this job provides. The idea that someone, whether a patient, your friend, your mum, can ask you a medical question, the chances are you can give them a good answer. There’s a great feeling knowing that you’re a real doctor. I have the good fortune to be married to a hospital doctor. She’s an anaesthetist and an intensive care physician. When our daughter was little, she fell badly and hurt herself in the garden. She absolutely refused to let my wife look at her to see what was wrong, and instead insisted to come and see her dad, who is a real doctor. And if a 3-year-old can figure this out, I hope you can too.
We do need our specialty doctors, but we need doctors as GPs even more. We see lots of patients, diagnose many conditions, and treat people close to home. Never let anyone tell you that being a GP is an easy option. I really believe that every job in medicine is hard in its own right. Being a GP means that you have to know something about everything. You have to rely on your diagnostic skills and knowledge, without immediate access to lab tests. Already today, I’ve been a rheumatologist, a paediatrician, a psychiatrist, a dermatologist, and a sports medic. I’m even a surgeon in my own practise. This variety means that every day is different and challenging. There are no dull days.

The General Practitioner (GP) is perhaps one of the best known specialites in medicine, with over 50,000 of them practicing in the UK. In this video, Glasgow based GP, Dr Alastair McLennan discusses his role.

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