A third of doctors in training become General Practitioners.
I probably always knew that I would too, however, maybe to the despair of my family and friends; I did not take a direct route. Each speciality holds the interest of a generalist, each placement as a junior doctor could sway you down that path, each healthcare team seem like your ‘people’, but the common thread is working with individual patients to help solve their health problems. A GP is the ultimate specialist generalist, applying the knowledge of all those specialities to everyday problem solving for every patient. Alongside this, all of us have the capability to generate knowledge and therefore develop the scholarship skills that contribute to improving individual patient health outcomes. Yet unlike those junior doctor placements, learning to generate this knowledge does not require years of training and any member of the primary care team can contribute. This underpins the WiseGP message, and I am very excited to be able to help the team spread this message a little wider.
My first taste of research was during my Master’s in Public Health at The University of Sheffield where I was a medical student. This was a unique intercalation opportunity after my fourth undergraduate year, and meant I left medical school equip with additional basic research skills and a burning curiosity of how to apply this to clinical medicine. I was then promptly thrown into life as a foundation doctor.
Throughout my clinical training, I tried to engage with what I now recognise to be ‘scholarship’. Quality improvement projects in respiratory medicine, audits in paediatrics, teaching medical students and foundation doctors and minor leadership roles. Without realising it, I was slowly building a portfolio of experiences and skills that would lead me to the epiphany that a portfolio career sounded like a really rather good idea.
Five years into postgraduate training, and having completed my Core Medical Training (PACES and all) I finally jumped ship into General Practice. Mainly because this came with a fantastic opportunity of an Academic Clinical Fellowship with the University of Southampton Primary Care Research Centre. This allowed me time to follow my academic interests alongside my clinical training, and the opportunity to explore the world of Academic Primary Care. A specialty incorporating the clinical generalism of being a GP, whilst being at the forefront of applied clinical research and everything in between.
During my ACF I have worked as part of a large team developing and feasibility testing a digital training tool called ‘Empathica’ that applies evidence for communicating with empathy and optimism to enhance the effectiveness of therapies for Osteoarthritis pain. I worked closely with patient and public involvement representatives to lead a qualitative project exploring how patients feel about this communication approach in primary care consultations. I have also followed my interested in acute medicine, exploring the evidence for how we make acute care decisions in elderly patients presenting with pneumonia, and the experiences of non-medical healthcare professionals who undertake GP tasks in acute, out-of-hours primary care. I want to explore this theme further, to understand how we deliver optimal acute services at the interface of general practice and secondary care. I have also pursued my interest in medical education working with my local GP education team to explore the evidence for virtual international exchanges to facilitate global health education for healthcare professionals.
My ACF training provided me with not only a new academic skill-set, but also the confidence to apply this to other aspects of scholarship such as training and leadership, which I view as a unique aspect of my role as a GP. As a trainee I represented the Dorset patch on the Wessex Trainee Committee, I am part of the Wessex Next Generation GP leadership programme, and I now represent early career researchers for the Wessex REACH Initiative aimed at facilitating growth in future generations of health and care-related researchers across the region. Applying to become a WiseGP Intern felt like a brilliant way to share what I have learnt during my journey to becoming a GP and to help engage those students and trainees who may be following a similar path.
In this role I will be providing the resources and connections early career researchers need to explore their own journey into scholarship, as well as contributing to expanding the conversation around the uniqueness of clinical scholarship in General Practice. And…to all those in training who are just enjoying all their placements and can’t quite decide on a speciality – have you thought about becoming a WiseGP?
Dr Emily Lyness