Most people appreciate that working as a GP requires years of study, but that is just one small part of establishing yourself and maintaining a career in medicine.

There is so much more to working as a GP that many people overlook.

Sure, it is an important job and a well rewarded one.

But it comes with a number of obligations, commitments and responsibility.

Here is what the average person may not fully appreciate about working as a GP.

Entry requirements

Not everyone can become a GP.

High grades in Year 12 are no guarantee of admission into a university course to study medicine.

To do so in Australia your GP will most likely have achieved:

A high ATAR score in Year 12 – Requirements vary depending on the course and university but generally demand a score of at least 90 and in 2023 required a score of 99.9 for entry to the University of Melbourne.

Passing an aptitude test – Most potential GPs need to pass a UCAT (Undergraduate Clinical Aptitude Test) which determines applicants with the most appropriate abilities and professional behaviours for the profession.

Passing an interview – Working as a GP requires a special temperament and particular traits such as empathy and care. Most budding GPs need to pass an interview for admission into their chosen university course.

Years of training

Students are then required to undertake up to 12 years of study before becoming fully fledged GPs.

This includes:

Medical degree – 4-6 years depending on whether students start from high school or as a university graduate.

Internship – one year rotating through various hospital departments.

Residency – at least one more year involving hands on experience and technical training at hospitals.

Vocational training – 3-4 years completing either a Fellowship of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners or a Fellowship of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

What few people fully appreciate about doctors is that their study never ends.

Medicine is constantly evolving as new discoveries are made and new technologies become available.

As a result, GPs in Australia are required to commit to CPD which helps them to maintain their relevant skills and competencies.

The self-directed program requires GPs to undertake a minimum of 50 hours per year and includes units such as self-assessment reflection, clinical audits and performance appraisal.

The reality however is that most doctors devote much more time to ongoing study and learning out of necessity.

This occurs via studying material in medical journals, attendance at medical conferences, seminars and webinars and sharing their knowledge and collaborating with fellow professionals.

Medical Indemnity Insurance

All medical professionals who work in Australia are required to have Medical Indemnity Insurance.

This insurance protects physicians in case they are found liable for a patient’s adverse medical event.

These policies typically cover doctors for up to $20 million and include the cost of legal expenses, compensation payments and other liabilities.

Clinical decision-making and risk management

Working as a GP is a high-pressure job.

That is because they are required to navigate complex clinical scenarios and make critical decisions to diagnose and treat patients effectively.

They must assess and manage various risks while dealing with varying degrees of diagnostic uncertainty, complications and side-effects from treatments.

And they must do it all while adhering to the highest professional standards and code of ethics.

This occurs every single day they arrive at work.

Multidisciplinary collaboration

Working as a GP demands a great deal of coordination and collaboration with other healthcare professionals from various fields.

These include specialists, nurses, pharmacists and allied healthcare professionals who may all be required to provide holistic care to patients.

It is all in the name of taking the best possible care of their patients and achieving optimal outcomes.

Practice management and administration

Working as a GP is not limited to stethoscopes and blood pressure checks.

It also demands a level of practice management and administration skills to ensure the smooth daily running of the business.

This may require the following:

  • monitoring finances and tax obligations 
  • regulatory compliance
  • overseeing staffing and rostering
  • strategic planning to optimise practice efficiency and patient satisfaction
  • quality improvement initiatives
  • marketing the business

Emotional toll

Much of a GP’s working day deals with patients suffering mental health issues.

This in turn can take a significant toll on the GP.

They see many patients who face serious medical challenges, require emotional support, suffer psychological distress or are dealing with social issues.

They need to be great listeners and show their patients great care and empathy at all times.

Advocacy and public health

GPs often find themselves on the front line of advocating for and promoting the health needs of their patients.

They may engage in health promotional activities, community outreach programs and advocate for policies that alleviate health inequities.

Professional accountability and ethical practice

In terms of ethics, GPs are regarded as pillars of the community.

They are trusted allies to all of their patients, and are fiercely protective of the confidentiality of their doctor-patient relationships.

They adhere to codes of conduct and ethics demanded by few other professions.

Commitment to patient-centred care

First and foremost, GPs are there for their patients.

They are dedicated to providing patient-centric care tailored to every individual patient’s needs, treatment preferences and circumstances.

They strive to empower patients to make informed decisions about their health, promoting self-management strategies while fostering collaborative partnerships in delivering healthcare.

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GPs toil incredibly hard to ensure all of their patients receive the highest standard of healthcare.

They have all worked and continue to work incredibly hard behind the scenes to do so.

By better understanding the breadth and depth of a GP’s roles, tasks and obligations, patients can develop a better appreciation of their expertise, dedication and talents.

These are the people who contribute to Australia’s healthcare system consistently being rated one of the most accessible, highest rated and most admired in the world.

We are extremely proud of the GPs that operate their practices out of our clinics at AHA.

They are all fine examples of the determination, diligence and integrity expected of everyone working as a GP in Australia.

Most importantly, they all take great time and care with all of their patients, listening closely to their concerns before carefully considering the most appropriate courses of action.

Book an appointment here today at either our Seaford Road Day and Night Clinic or our Seaford Meadows Day and Night Clinic.