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Jenni Whittaker – Why I am choosing GP

Jenni has just finished her foundation training in the north east and north Cumbria and intends to stay in the region that she has grown to love, to become a GP. Here’s her story.

Hi I’m Jenni

Like many of you I am passionate about caring for people and making a difference to their lives.  I can’t really remember when I decided that I wanted to be a doctor; it’s just something I have always wanted to do.

My medical school journey

Newcastle Medical School was one of four that ticked all the boxes for me. When I was accepted to two medical schools, Newcastle was my preferred choice so I made the move up north from my childhood home in Hertfordshire.  I was fairly confident I'd enjoy it, but didn't realise quite how much I'd fall in love with Newcastle, and the surrounding countryside in particular. Because of that, there was no choice in my mind when it came to where to apply to do my foundation training - I didn't want to move!

Setting my foundations

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as a foundation doctor and can honestly say that apart from the odd hours which I’m sure I’ll get used to, I love every part of my job. I did my foundation training in the Royal Victoria Infirmary and the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, and loved it.

At medical school there were rumours flying around that the Newcastle hospitals weren't very supportive and were too big to give a good learning environment, and I would completely disagree with this. Whilst the hospitals lacked the intimacy of smaller hospitals, where you might soon know everyone, working in the larger tertiary centres meant an exposure to a vast variety of patients and conditions. It is also worth mentioning that whilst you might not befriend the whole hospital, you definitely have enough time on each rotation to get to know the team really well.

What I love about being a doctor

The team camaraderie with doctors, from consultants to foundation doctors; nurses, allied health professionals and administrative staff has been fantastic in every job I've done. That in itself has made each day enjoyable.

From a clinical perspective, what I get most satisfaction from is the feeling that I can make even a small positive difference to a patient and their families at a time when they are suffering. That can be making a diagnosis and starting treatment, to simply making a cup of tea and having a chat; if it puts a smile on a patient's face then it's worth every effort.

I love the opportunities that are available to you as a doctor; they are endless depending on your motivation to become involved. I have always had a team around me that has supported me in achieving my goals which has a huge impact on my morale and job satisfaction.

Why I am choosing GP

For a long time I wanted to specialise in paediatrics, then A&E; then just didn't have a clue. My first F2 placement was within a GP surgery, so I had a full 4 months of experience and really enjoyed it.  I held my own clinics and was able to treat patients independently. A GP was always available to answer any queries, or help out in any way, and it provided a safe environment to learn many new skills, particularly relating to independent working.

In my personal life I started getting into sports and event medicine outside of work, as well as taking the first steps into volunteering with mountain rescue. I realised a love of the outdoors; walking up mountains, rock climbing, mountain biking, trail running, swimming in lakes, was extremely important to me and after a good while of inward contemplation, I came to the realisation that I couldn't be truly happy in life if my job didn't allow me to do all the things I enjoy.

General practice really can do that - I can work less than full time much easier than in many other specialities, I can live in a countryside location without necessitating a long commute, I can be involved in mountain rescue and event medicine and still do all the activities I enjoy. The job itself is also highly customisable - more and more, GPs are becoming GPSIs and have areas of expertise above that expected of all GPs.

As a GP I hope to be able to truly get to know the practice population and treat everything from a simple case of bronchiolitis in a baby, to palliating an elderly patient with a terminal disease and everything that falls in between in a way that just isn't possible with any other specialty.

Are you unsure which specialty to choose? Here’s Jenni’s advice.

It can be a difficult decision to make and I certainly changed my mind several times. I think this is because at the end of the day in all specialities you do what we all want to do which is to help people and make a difference.

I have put a lot of thought into where I want to be and I think it is important to think about your work life balance. Also I would say that a career in general practice probably has the biggest potential to make it what you want. It doesn't exclude other interests, both medical and personal, and the variety on offer is quite remarkable.

Get as much as you can out of your experience in foundation and go with the specialty that you enjoyed the most and got the most job satisfaction from; that is why I am applying for GP.

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