Published on 7th February 2017 by lauram

If you’re thinking of becoming a GP, it’s important to know what the job involves. I’m Dr Jessica Howitt, a London-based GP, and here’s what I get up to on a typical day in General Practice…

Morning Surgery

Morning surgery starts at 8.30am, but I usually arrive by 8 so I’ve got time for a cup of tea, a chat with the receptionists, and a few minutes to finish off any outstanding tasks from the day before.

Each practice varies, but we offer a walk-in clinic where any patient that registers before 10.30 is guaranteed to be seen by a doctor that morning. It’s a great way to provide accessibility, but also means that you never know how many people will turn up. On a good day, each doctor will see around 18 patients, and on a busy day it could be upwards of 30. The patients are already queuing outside when I arrive in the morning which gives me a good idea of how busy it will be before I start.

The morning passes in a flash, mainly driven by adrenaline and coffee. Despite a waiting room full of patients, it’s important to give everyone the time and attention they need which although demanding, gives me a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

Lunch Break

People often ask what a GP does between their surgeries, assuming we have long lunch breaks with not much to do. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case…

I’m starving by the time I finish my morning surgery and usually eat lunch at my desk while completing notes and checking emails. If I have time, I like to eat with my colleagues, but I’ve usually got too much to do.

During the morning, the receptionists allocate home visits, and each doctor usually has between one and two. The visits are reserved for patients who can’t come to the surgery; those with reduced mobility or who are particularly unwell. I love the opportunity to leave the surgery for a few hours each day and visit patients in their homes. It gives me insight into their lives and gives me the opportunity to meet their family members or carers.

When I return from my visits (usually via a coffee shop), I start working through my administrative tasks. These include checking blood and pathology reports, signing prescriptions, reading correspondence from specialists and writing referral letters. It’s not always possible to get through it all, so I’ll make a list of things I need to come back to later that day.

Afternoon Surgery

Afternoon surgery is from 3-6pm. Each appointment lasts 10 minutes, so it can be hard to run on time, especially if a patient has multiple problems to discuss. These appointments are usually booked a few weeks in advance, so they’re often follow-up appointments or medication reviews. A rewarding part of General Practice is the ability to build lasting relationships with your patients and review them on a regular basis, so I particularly enjoy my afternoon surgery.

The final tasks

I usually stay an hour or so longer to finish any outstanding work. It’s tempting to just go home and leave it for the next day, but from experience I’ve learned this generally makes me more stressed, and there’s nothing more satisfying than a completed to-do list!

It’s fair to say that a day in General Practice is full on. You’re non-stop from the moment you arrive but at least it means the day never drags. Yes, it can be hectic and overwhelming, but it’s also one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, which more than makes up for it.

Words: Dr Jessica Howitt


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