We spent some time speaking to Stephen Foulks, who qualified as a GP in Jan 2016. He shares his experiences of looking for a GP job and his top tips for Registrar GPs looking for a job on completion of their training.
Why did you choose to be a GP?
I really enjoyed having a generalist background and wanted to get a flavour for all the different avenues in medicine without having to specialise in any particular one. Some people don’t fit into the niche boxes of particular specialities. It’s was not all about the work life balance, it was whether the job was right for me and where my skill set lay.
What were your biggest challenges whilst training to be a GP?
Personally, I did not want to get distracted by too much of the finer details of hospital work and I was always thinking about how is this going to be relevant for me when starting to do my GP training. Lots of different specialities interested me and I wanted to ensure I was knowledgeable about different areas so I could become a better generalist.
What was the most enlightening thing you learned whilst training to be a GP?
My real paradigm shift during my training occurred, when I realised that you don’t have to treat a patient the moment you see them as you do in a hospital environment. Actually, as a GP you don’t have to instantly fix the problem, you have time on your side that you can utilise as a diagnostic tool. You have to realise what is important to this person, what I could do to help them today, and what I can do to help them over the longer term.
Was going through an agency useful when looking for a job after qualifying?
You don’t realise how much time it’s going to take looking for a job. You can put a lot of effort into specialising your CV for particular places, coming across well at the interviews and then if you did well in the interview you have to do an informal meeting to make sure you know exactly what it was you were getting into. For me, using an agency meant I did not have to shoot in the dark so many times, having someone else who knew my preferences and was willing to do the leg work for me meant I could focus on 2 or 3 jobs that seemed appropriate for me. I started looking for roles after I had completed and passed my CSA exams. Jason presented me with the opportunity of working at Idle Medical Centre which not only fitted into my requirements regarding commuting to and from my job but also offered me the perfect working environment to grow and flourish as a new GP.
What did you think about the service you received from Prospect Health your consultant Jason?
When Jason first rang I was wary, however I gave him the time to explain the service he could offer and after I listened I realised he could really help me. I was really impressed with Jason, his rigour and the degree of detail he went into was exceptional and he asked loads of things I did not think of considering as preferences. He helped me be a bit more mindful of the things that I wanted.
What has been your proudest achievement since you started at Idle Medical?
I have been pleased to be involved in the teaching and training of the registrar student and 4th year medical students that are in the practice. I think I have some useful insights being a registrar last year; it’s great to be trusted to manage patients and teach, with support, at the same time. It’s something I want to continue developing as I get a real sense of enjoyment out of it.
What have been the key areas that you’ve enjoyed & contributed towards since starting with Idle Medical?
I have been very involved with the partners; they have never treated me as just a salaried GP and are always interested in what I have to say. I have actively participated in helping to reshape our on-call and triage processes. I would ideally like to look towards partnership after a few years in practice, which would mean learning to take control of the direction of the practice and have a say in what happens, what type of services we want to bid for and what type of practice we want to be. I would always rather be in the driving seat and ensure the change is driven by myself to drive my own career forward.
Are there any bits of advice you would give other soon to qualify GPs about finding a job once you qualify?
With me it is always about the where, the who and the how….
Where – You have to have the right location. The practice needs to be in a good commutable distance from your home and you need to consider the demographic of the area. You also need to make sure the practice is not on your doorstep so you can achieve some degree of separation between your professional and personal life.
Who – Who are the Doctors, the management team and the team of people you are going to be working with? The partners are really important as you want to be able to take their ethos and work with them to shape the direction of the practice and what it stands for.
How – How and where you want to work, the days, the on call system and the flexibility of the role.
What top tips would you give newly qualified GPs about looking for a new job once they qualify?
Be honest with yourself and work out what actually motivates you, what you’re interested in and find a practice that shares your ideas. Anyone can go along to an interview and get a sense of what you need to say to fit into that organisation. If you’re trying to fit into an organisation and you’re not a natural fit, it’s always going to be a struggle and you don’t want to be doing that at the same time as having the clinical commitments of a salaried GP job.
Was there anything you were not certain about when qualifying, what would you have liked more information on before you qualified?
The training scheme I was on was quite good, and it gave you an idea of what’s important when looking for a job, but many people learnt the hard way by going into a practice they were not keen on or they had too much responsibility too early on. It’s important to know your limits, it important to find something that stretches you but in a way that helps you develop instead of feeling drowned by it. You get so focused on finishing your portfolio and passing your exams you don’t take much time to think about CPD or appraisals. I have been lucky in my practice to have some peers who are easy to talk to, and they have given me advice on how to keep up to date including some of the pitfalls and the things that work really well.
What do you think about locuming after qualifying?
It depends on your preferences. If you’re financially driven it will probably suit you but you have to have a head for business, and you have to be able to organise your own financial terms and yourself as a commodity. For me, this would actually distract me from learning about what I was doing in my first newly qualified GP job. It’s a big step going from someone supervising you to doing it on your own. The main issue for me was, as a locum, you definitely lose the continuity of care, which is the bedrock of General practice. Knowing what’s happening with your patients and learning to follow them up is a key skill of a GP. Often locums deal with acute cases, but there is not a tendency to be involved with ongoing care and other elements like health promotion and QOF, which would be good for patients, as well fundamental to the practice’s performance. It’s rewarding to build relationships with your patients, when they tell me that they have been pleased with the care they have received and they would like to bring their significant other to see me too it makes it all worthwhile.
What key changes do you envisage will occur in primary care over the next couple of years?
The key thing is that we will have to work smarter as the in-balance between funding and demand on services increases and will only continue to increase. Innovation is the key; we have to work smarter and do what we can with the resources we have to ensure we can provide the service required.