My first term as a GP registrar: a lesson in life

GP Registrar Georgia Frew shares her fears, frustrations and self discoveries on the path to becoming a part of the future of healthcare.

  Patients never used to refer to me as “my doctor”. It’s really not something you ever hear when working as an intern in hospitals. But wow, that’s what I was hearing in just the first few weeks of being a GP registrar – both terrifying and fulfilling!

  July marked the end of our semester. For new registrars like me, that meant moving on to a new practice, applying for placements next year, and calculating how much time is left before hitting the books for fellowship exams.

  Looking back over my first 6 months as a registrar and the challenges it presented in wearing that cloak of “my doctor”, I believe I’ve learnt more about doctoring in the first 2 months of general practice than in 2 years of hospital work.

  For starters, the complete comprehensive revision of musculoskeletal medicine, dermatology and ophthalmology was essential. Beyond this, there’s so much more to learn; writing a list of topics to read up on as they come up can result in a long list!

  There’s also the self-discovered practical tips – for example learning how to disguise shaking hands by stabilising them against the patient, and that viewing the eardrum of a squirming infant requires prison-grade restraints!

 There’s lots of games too: ‘hide-and-seek’ with many an elusive cervix, and ‘name that rash!’ Can I call a friend? Plus the English language lessons required whilst struggling to smoothly explain that of the four and a half problems on the agenda, only two can properly be addressed in 12 minutes, and no, your sick child does not need antibiotics (ducks for cover). I've also had plenty of practice at swallowing my pride – calling up a patient a few minutes after they’ve left because you forgot to ask a pertinent question (that was close!).

Is it possible to run 20 minutes behind and not feel rushed? Is this form specifically designed to take ages to complete?

 Then, after a while, maybe about mid-way through the semester, you eventually stop obsessively reading through previous notes in an attempt to prepare yourself for the consult. A sense of calm envelopes, and you learn to embrace the element of surprise. You stop excessively worrying if you’ve made the right decision. Because that persistent niggle of uncertainty is not a foe, but a friend: a reminder to practice safely, to highlight gaps in your knowledge.

 But most of all is the slow but steadily changing perspective of what this profession can really be. The focus on the medicine gives way to a focus on the person. This is the point where you stop being a person with a medical degree, and start being a doctor. Or at least, I like to think so.

 Facts, studies or the latest RACGP guidelines won’t change the medical experience or outcome for a patient. But a smile might. At this point, I can’t guarantee that I won’t get palpitations when a patient comes in with a red eye and vision loss. But I can guarantee to give my best at making someone feel sincerely heard and understood. I can guarantee that I’ll try to give someone information that empowers them to take control of their health.

 My lesson for this semester: once the dust has settled, practice to provide an experience that is something more than simply an exchange of knowledge. Facts and figures can be relayed by a robot, but the human touch is unique to us. It’s only been 6 months, and I wonder how I’ll feel after 6 years. Will it be any more comfortable to hear a patient refer to me as “my doctor”?

Have any words of advice or support for GP Registrars like Georgia? – login to leave your comments!

Breonny RobsonGeorgia Frew, MBBS
Based in Perth, Dr Georgia Frew began training as a GP Registrar in 2017. If all goes to plan, she will soon pass her fellowship exams then go on a long holiday. She finds the most satisfying part of her work being empowering patients through education. When she’s not studying, she enjoys keeping up to date with the politics of health care in Australia, and hopes to gain insight into how health systems influence our health.