In the lead up to your first role as a GP, you undertake quite a bit of preparation for your big moment - a dedicated training scheme, the challenging AKT and CSA exams and an e-portfolio. In theory, you should feel fully prepared when it comes to your first day as a qualified GP. But the first few weeks, or even the first year, will still feel like one of the most daunting times in your career. It certainly was for me. I remember having two main worries; 'What happens if I don't know what to do?' and 'Will I keep my surgery running to time?'
As a newly qualified GP, you are now fully autonomous and (armed with your doctor's bag and copy of British National Formulary) you will diagnose, treat, advise and support around 30 patients on an average day.
Those patients will present you with a vast variety of issues any one of which could be a real diagnostic challenge, even now your training is complete.
The rewards are great, though. You start to build strong doctor-patient relationships that may continue for years to come. You will soon experience what it feels like to do a job well, like making a tricky diagnosis or treating a condition that responds well. But you will probably also berate yourself when you don't diagnose a condition immediately, or when a treatment you prescribe doesn't work as planned.
A newly qualified GP makes dozens of important decisions independently every day. Sometimes that can feel lonely, especially when you don't know what to do for a particular patient. As the days go on, you grow in confidence and after a few weeks, you begin to wonder what it was that worried you on that first day.
And while a GP can't know everything straight away, there are some skills that will get you far; a sound knowledge base, good clinical skills, excellent communication skills, along with knowledge of your own limitations, and - most importantly - when to ask for help.
Top ten tips for newly qualified GPs
- Pick your practice or locum sessions carefully so you feel comfortable with the situation you are going into.
- Make sure you have any equipment you need before starting your surgery or going on a home visit. Rushing about to find equipment in between patients will increase your stress levels.
- Be aware of your time-keeping. Running very late is likely to be stressful for you and irritate your patients.
- Despite tip three, remember that you will run late, and probably quite often. In such cases, accept that you are running late, apologise to your patients and don't let it affect the service you deliver for the rest of the session.
- Take the time required for administrative tasks. Significant errors can occur from signing repeat prescriptions and reviewing hospital letters hastily. Consider dedicating a certain amount of time per day to such tasks when you are uninterrupted and can give them your full attention.
- Avoid doing tasks 'on the hop', like while walking through reception or in between patients, unless it is strictly necessary. Mistakes are more likely in such situations.
- Use your support network, whether this is your new GP colleagues, the other GPs from your ST training scheme, your locum group, your friends or family. Being a newly qualified GP is a demanding task and their support will help. Remember to take time to relax outside of work and maintain your work-life balance.
- Keep accurate, detailed contemporaneous medical records. This can be a challenge faced with time pressures, so if you need help with this, consider taking a medical record keeping training course.
- Remember to keep up with your continuing professional development and start recording your credits for appraisal and revalidation.
- Be aware of your limitations and ask for help when appropriate. Even as an independent GP you are unlikely to ever be truly alone. Use your GP and hospital colleagues for advice if you are unsure.
Finally, please remember to update the MDU on your work circumstances and your contact details so we can continue to support you through the next phase of your career.
This guidance was correct at publication 26/03/2014. It is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.