A GP is perhaps one of the most personable roles available in healthcare, requiring individuals to not only have a diverse grasp of medical knowledge, but also to have great communication skills.
This enables you to build up strong patient-doctor relationships, helping those who come to see you feel comfortable in reporting ailments and confident in your abilities to offer advice and diagnose treatment.
However, while the bond between patient and doctor can often take a long time to build, this is not always possible. If you are a permanent GP then there will be times in your career when you move to new practices, or if you undertake locum GP work then you will need to be able to adapt to not only new environments but also different types of patients.
Settling into a new environment
Before heading to a new GP surgery it's important to get as much information as you can about where you will be working. You may be able to ask your new employer or the agency you are working for to provide details of the surgery, such as opening hours, patient demographics or specialist services offered.
Alternatively, researching on your own will help you to feel prepared for your new role. While you won't be able to access medical records of prospective patients, it could be beneficial to research the local area to find out more about the people who you may be treating. Regional or local data available on the Office for National Statistics, NHS website or individual council sites may provide clues as to what the average age of your patients may be and whether there is a high incidence of conditions such as obesity, smoking-related illnesses or heart disease.
Spotting such local variants could then prompt you to do a little more background reading into specific conditions, helping you to feel more prepared for whatever problems your new patients might report.
Building patient relationships
Doctor-patient relationships can take time, but while you may have regular visitors to your surgery, others will only visit occasionally. Being warm and welcoming to everyone that comes through your door will help put them at ease, even if you are an unfamiliar face. If your patient is made to feel comfortable they will then usually be more forthcoming with discussing their symptoms or health problems, allowing you to better treat them and offer advice.
Patients often expect their GPs to have all the answers and therefore it may help to refresh your mind and prepare for specific appointments if you know what they may be concerning in advance or feel that you need to read up on more unusual ailments.
Exploring different options and finding individual solutions to suit your patients is all part and parcel of being a GP and it may take time and a little patience to forge relationships with regular patients. However, the more experience you have the more confident you will feel in your communication abilities, allowing you to be both professional and personable whatever your environment.
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