A Highland GP on life the universe and anything…

A great privilege of my role in RCGP is access to fascinating reports from across the country. I am very grateful to those who shared Alice’s report of time spent undertaking GP work experience as a school student wishing to follow a medical career. Here is what she wrote, shared with her permission: –

I have always enjoyed the practical application of science and I love working with people. I am studying for my AS levels currently with the intention of possibly applying to study medicine but wanted to find out more. I had managed to arrange a few days work experience at my local hospital. Although I had visited a GP a few times in my life I wasn’t really too sure of all that they did during their day in the surgery. I found it hard to get any work experience to see if this would be an area of work that would interest me.

I first tried to see if I could do this at a GP practice in my town but was told  I could not do this in my local area  for confidentiality reasons in case there were patients I knew  – this seemed sensible. I then approached a Dr McKeown who was a GP in another town where I attend school who was keen to help. A partner in her practice was concerned that this also may be not a good idea for confidentiality reasons in case other pupils or staff attended the surgery.

Dr McKeown was unsure as to how young people could therefore find more out about what a GP does if it is so difficult to get work experience. I understand that there is currently a shortage of GPs so it would seem a sensible idea to attract people into medicine with a genuine wish to become GPs as well as neurosurgeons or pathologists. Dr McKeown discussed this with colleagues locally and they agreed to try and work out some exchange practices for GPs who were interested in helping and they could have students paired up from other areas.  This sounded a really sensible idea and I was then quickly put in contact with a GP in Reading which was an hour and a half away so with few concerns regarding  confidentiality.

I found my work experience at Wargrave Surgery really interesting and I was introduced to the team of people working at the practice.  On the first day I shadowed a practice nurse and saw her taking blood tests, removing stitches, giving injections and dressing wounds. It was very good to see what all sides of the practice were like and the variety of care given and it also reassured me that I’m definitely fine with needles and blood!

On my second day I was in surgery with Dr Kennedy a GP. Some people had told me that being a GP you saw lots of people with coughs and colds and minor problems, however in the day I saw lots of different cases from chest infections to long term health conditions in all different age groups. I found it very interesting to see how a GP’s time was spent (and how little time they sometimes had to look after complicated patients) – and to see how different patients were treated.

I found it very useful to hear about how long term conditions were managed and how patient’s health was monitored. The people I saw that day had a variety of conditions including: ringworm- it was interesting to see and learn that it is treated with an anti fungal cream; Kyphosis –  curvature of the spine – it was interesting to see that the GP noticed this when the patient came in for something else; hereditary spherocytosis- after a splenectomy the haemoglobin levels were returning to normal and we discussed the condition and the problems that may occur after a splenectomy.

I came away from a very interesting and rewarding day feeling pretty exhausted – the GP worked far later than I had realised!  I saw how a doctor’s work at a GP surgery is very different to a hospital doctor’s work, which without shadowing a GP is hard to do. The basics of the job were roughly how I had imagined it to be from my own experience of visiting a GP, but I was really impressed and inspired by the breadth and depth of knowledge and genuine interest of the GP in all the varied medical conditions we saw during the day and by the way the different roles worked together in the practice. It also really brought home the relevance of much that I was learning in my A level biology course.  It was lovely to see how the GP knew some of his patients well and had treated them through different illnesses over many years and was really sensitive to their needs as a whole person and explained things to them well in terms they each could understand.

I was really grateful to all the patients who allowed me to sit in on their consultations and so willingly share their experiences with me, all the staff at the surgery for letting me see what they all actually did and especially to Dr Kennedy for being so patient and enthusiastic and for really involving me fully in all the consultations during the day.

I have come away inspired and with a much more realistic view of a GP’s busy job – I would love to see myself working as a GP in the future. I am really thankful to Dr McKeown and the LMC network for helping put this work experience in place. I hope that other 6th form students will also be helped to find such useful work experience – we may well be the GP’s of the future!

Alice Henery

6th Form student



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