A placement in a GP surgery is an excellent way to learn about what life is like being a doctor in the community as well as gaining experience that will help you in your medical school application.
The first thing to remember is that we feel it is no longer acceptable just to say that you ‘sat and watched’. You have to able to use your work experience to demonstrate that you saw some of the qualities of a doctor and are able to back this up with examples. It is also good to demonstrate that you have some of these qualities, or the early stages of them. You can also use your work experience as a motivating factor for choosing medicine as a career, but again you must back this up with evidence. This means you must not only make a log entry of what you saw, but be aware of what information could be useful for your application. Not only is this vital for your personal statement, but you also may have a MMI station in your interview focused on what you learnt during your work experience.
Please bear in mind patients have the right to refuse to have a student present with them in a consultation. In addition, if you are male, some female patients may not be happy with you being present. Please do not be disheartened if this happens.
Let us move on to what you can experience and learn in a GP surgery setting.
As GP surgeries are usually very busy, with most only having one patient every 10 minutes, so your opportunity for interaction may be limited. Focus here on how the doctor speaks to the patient. If you see any challenging consultations, look at how the GP assessed the needs and expectations of the patient. If patients are distressed, look at how the GP is showing empathy. Look at how the treatment provided by the doctor improved the quality of life of the patient (for example made them less short of breath or reduced pain). Remember not every treatment needs a prescription.
GP home visits
These are usually reserved for patients who are terminally ill or unable to leave home without undergoing considerable distress. The caring side of medicine is just as important as the scientific side. Look at how the caring side of such patients are managed at home (or perhaps in a nursing home). What are the caring needs of such patients? Think about washing, dressing, feeding and basic day to day tasks that most of us take for granted.
GP Reception and Administration
The reception staff is usually the first point of call for any patient who contacts the surgery. Look at how they decide on the urgency of patients and how to book in with the most appropriate person (or direct the patient to an alternative service, such as accident and emergency). Think about some of the challenges they will face.
Look at how patients order medication and how requests are processed by the surgery. Think about what can go wrong in the process and what safeguards are in place.
We will continue work experience placements in a GP practice with further blog entries. Bookmark our blog!