What are the skills needed for today's successful GP career?
I am sure everyone’s view will be different, but from talking to GPs regularly about their careers, I found that I have changed what I place as most important. A good while back I might have said something like
- Good communication skills
- A feel for whether something is normal/minor or warrants more attention
- A love of lifelong learning
Although these are still important, I have found that recently I have been tempted to replace these by
- Setting boundaries
- Letting go
Having made this new list I then found it interesting that they all link in some way to the issue of controlling demand, mixed with keeping some of one's energy - self-preservation skills, if you like. I hesitate to call them survival skills as this implies that GPs are hanging on by their fingernails, and I know this not to be the case. There may well be more stressed out GPs than in the past, and there are certainly more frustrations working in general practice than times gone by, but there is definitely a cohort that thoroughly enjoy their profession; perhaps this group are already utilising those four skills.
One could argue that the practice of medicine overall has always needed these self-preservation skills, but something has changed in that these skills appear to have shifted up the scale of 'must learn and get good at’.
I would even go as far as to say that if a GP does not have a good dollop of these skills, they are more likely to end up with career-related health problems, perhaps even necessitating a change of career, or at least some major modifications.
Difficulty in gaining these skills may have something to do with personality traits too. For example:
- Strong people skills combined with slight people-pleaser predisposition
- Being a perfectionist and not really enjoying 'grey' areas
- A combination of A & B
There are so many competencies that a GP registrar needs in demonstrating the ability to ‘fledge’; leaving the nest to be launched as an autonomous family doctor. However, I wondered whether these four skills are being addressed sufficiently in training; whether some people will have trouble with adopting them without some tailored and personal help, and whether personality testing has a place in GP selection, career planning or appraisal.
I am not a great fan of personality testing, and would never base career guidance on a personality test alone; it doesn’t really give enough answers as a mainstay of career management, plus people have a tendency to rely on them a bit too much but at times they do add something useful into the mix and can be a useful discussion point. There are websites where one can have a go at various personality testing, for example the Enneagram.
If my four suggested self-preservation skills are indeed more important now than before then it is up to each GP to make this clear to their trainer , course organiser or regional advisers so that the topics can emerge more regularly in training events.