Searching for a job can be both exciting and daunting, whether you are a newly qualified GP or a more experienced hand looking for a change.
With many factors to take into account, the task is about matching your own requirements to what is available to you. Talking to colleagues is a great way of getting more information.
After completing my vocational training (VT) I was a part-time salaried GP at a university practice for two years. I stopped working there in 2009 to have a baby and I am now doing locum work.
Hopefully the following thoughts, based on my own experience of deciding on the next stage of my career after VT, will be useful to GPs pondering what to do next.
One of the first things to consider is whether you want or need to work full-time or part-time. Financial considerations are often the greatest driving force behind this decision, closely followed by family commitments and dependents.
Also, the rise of the 'portfolio GP' means that part-time posts can sometimes be more attractive as a way to make up part of a fuller working week.
Partnership or salary?
One of the great things about general practice is the flexibility it offers and it is usually possible to find positions offering anything from three to nine sessions a week.
As a newly qualified GP, one of the biggest choices facing you is whether to become a salaried GP or to try to find a partnership. Experienced GPs or those who are relocating may have already worked in a salaried post, been a partner or both, so often have a better idea of what to expect.
Becoming a partner is usually considered to be a long-term commitment and so would need to fit in with future plans regarding geographical location, family, schooling and so on. Partners generally have extra responsibilities connected to running the practice on top of their clinical commitments.
However, one of the greatest advantages of being a GP partner is the autonomy that comes with it. No doubt the higher status and a bigger income are attractive too. For others, the fixed hours and lower administrative workload of a salaried GP are more appealing.
The type of practice you work in will have a huge impact on your daily working life. A small or single-handed practice will feel very different to a large medical centre with numerous members in its healthcare team.
Continuity of care and doctor-patient relationships can be easier to maintain and forge in smaller practices, but the social aspect of being in a larger setting may suit some GPs better.
TIPS ON STARTING YOUR GP CAREER
- Talk to colleagues about what they think of their jobs and any advantages/disadvantages.
- Think about factors such as the type of general practice that would suit you, whether you want to be salaried or a partner and whether you want to work full-time or part-time.
- Networking at educational and medical events is a great way to find out about upcoming jobs before they are advertised.
- Make sure you visit practices you are interested in before applying, with a list of things you want to find out.
- If you are unsure about what you want to do, locum work gives you the opportunity to work in different types of practices and get a feel for what would suit you.
The workload may be heavier in a small practice at times when the other doctors are away. However, a larger practice can sometimes feel chaotic if it is not well-organised and efficiently run. The best way to gauge what environment is right for you is by visiting practices.
Most of us have an idea about what profile a practice we would like to work at should have, and location is usually a good determinant of this. Inner-city practices in deprived areas offer a completely different set of challenges and problems to other practices, for example alcohol and drug abuse, children at risk and possibly large immigrant populations.
In a suburban or rural practice the emphasis tends to be much more on health promotion and disease prevention.
Partner and salaried jobs are advertised in the medical press - for example, see the job adverts at the back of this copy of GP or look online at http://jobs. healthcarerepublic.com
Local deaneries and VT schemes also get involved in publicising vacancies, so it is worth contacting them. Local divisions of the RCGP sometimes send out details of vacancies, so it is a good idea to be added to their mailing lists.
As ever, word of mouth is a great way to hear about practices looking to recruit, so networking at educational meetings, practice events and other medical events should not be underrated.
Visiting potential practices
Practices are used to, and probably even expect, potential job candidates to have an informal look around. This is a great way to get a feel for the practice and its staff without the pressure of being interviewed on the same day.
As well as meeting the team you are hoping to work with, it is a chance to ask questions and to put your best foot forward before you even formally apply.
Things worth finding out about when visiting a practice include: parking arrangements; session times, including extended hours; practice meetings and social events; which other members of the healthcare team are based at the practice; and what the consulting rooms are like and how they are equipped.
This article first appeared in GP Newspaper. Visit GP Online for more careers articles and information