General Practice tells the unfiltered story of life

By , Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan published on 07/04/2021 General Practice, Rural Generalism,

After numerous interviews with GPs sharing their perspectives about Locum work, we thought we'd take a look at the qualitative essence of being a GP.

We’d like to welcome back Dr Jonathan Ramachenderan with an article that really eloquently captures the essence of General Practice; what it’s all about; specifically, being a GP in rural Australia.

Jonathan is a palliative care doctor and GP anaesthetist now based in Albany, WA, and we're pleased to have him onboard for this week:


What is the truth about General Practice?

The truth about General Practice is that it is challengingThe End.

Ha! Now that would be too easy and tremendously disrespectful to my General Practice colleagues.

So, what is it that makes General Practice challenging? But firstly and most importantly, what makes General Practice such a rewarding speciality and central to health care?

For me, General Practice was rewarding because it was “a beautiful mess of humanity and medicine, pity and tragedy, personal growth and self-reflection”.

General Practice tells the unfiltered story of life. From the wonder of conception to birth to the innocence and vulnerability of infanthood, General Practitioners are there to help.

From the tenderness of childhood right through the often confusing and trying years of adolescence, General Practice is there to serve.

From the promise of young adulthood to the beautiful busyness of middle age, GPs are there. And then from the golden, reflective and hopefully productive years of retirement towards the final walk (or run) towards our last days, GPs play a major role in supporting a person’s lifespan and healthspan.

Interspersed within this story and the practice of clinical medicine is the tragedy of accidents, the sorrow of suicide, the unjustness of cancer, the pain of broken relationships but more rewardingly, the glory of forgiveness, the joy of finding purpose and everything in between!

General practice is medicine for life. And life is not often easy and we need advocatesgatekeeperswise guidesattentive heroes and empatheticdown-to-earthwonderful humans as our GPs.

General Practice, for those who find a calling here, is truly the wisdom of all medicine. 

Knowledgeable is how most GPs start, fresh and polished from their exams and ready to make a difference. But wise is only what a few in all of medicine become. 

For the beginning of wisdom is having a healthy fear of the complexity and uncertainty of disease and understanding that we do not know everything! Wisdom is then having the humility to recognise that each and every patient is able to teach us something, should we take the time to truly hear the language that our patients are speaking to us.

Making a difference in General Practice 

So let’s talk about the truth in making a difference in General Practice.

As a General Practitioner, you can actually change lives and help people re-write their medical life story.

Now, “actually” is a powerful word because it is within reach of every GP.

The wisdom in General Practice is knowing that the ripples or the butterfly effect of your attention to your patient’s problems, is vast and far-reaching.

By listening attentively to a young mum’s concerns about herself as a mother, you kindly encourage her and allow her to truly see her value. This ripples as confidence and helps her to negate her self-doubt — her child thrives, she has someone who cares about her mental health and physical wellbeing.

The word “breathless” catches your attention in a middle-aged woman who tells you it’s “just a little gastro”. Your gut feeling leads you to find a large myocardial infarction on her ECG which helps you to save her life and that of her families — her children still have a mum and possibly a grandma one day.

Your attention and care to a simple request for a repeat prescription brings a worried single mum back to see you with her suicidal son. He’s lost, he’s questioning his sexuality, he doesn’t know who to talk to. You listen. Your voice cracks with emotion, “I’ll help you”.

One simple smile and care for his mother’s cardiovascular risk brought this young legend in. He’s found another adult who believes in him. He’s not weird, he’s going to be okay.

Your attention and care for a longterm patient who dies of metastatic cancer with great suffering, despite the very best of specialist care, catches the attention of her grandson. He wants to do more. He wants to help. He believes that there has to be another way to deal with pain in cancer. Your care inspires him.

The ripples of your care and attention in General Practice can be wide — more than you could ever ask, think or imagine.

That is the truth about General Practice and “actually” helping in this space.

Thank you to our guest writer Dr. Jonathan Ramachenderan. This is an excerpt from My Truth About General Practice: Why it's central, why I left and finding a calling..published on The Healthy GP. You can follow Jonathan on Twitter @thehealthyGP.

Do you wish to know about rural and remote medicine? Ochre Recruitment places General Practitioners in career-affirming roles across rural and regional Australia. Read more about rural general practice here.

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