General Practice Ireland

When choosing a career as a general practice doctor in primary care, it is important to ask yourself a number of questions. This is a very demanding career which wears many hats and some don’t include that which you spend 10+ years studying towards.

Are you a people person?

Provided you are working as a salaried/partner GP, you will meet the same people and families again and again. This is both a privileged and demanding position to be in, where people of the community and families put their trust in you for the medical needs. They will come to you in times of medical need, either minor or major, and will follow your advice about their health. This allows you to build up a very important relationship with a patient and interpret illness not just from a physical point of view, but in the context of their psychological and social situation.

Are you able to cope with the variables?

This is not as simple as it sounds. GPs are often the first point of call for a patient when they are unwell. A significant amount of the time, a symptom may be a manifestation of a trivial illness which will resolve spontaneously. However, it may also represent a more serious underlying problem. The patient is looking to you to make a decision about how to proceed. History and examination are the first line of any doctor’s assessment, but the timescale to get investigation results as a GP is much slower than your hospital colleagues. Blood tests and radiology investigations can take a week or more to return. Decision-making about when to investigate and when to use time as a tool to observe is a nuanced art that GPs develop over time.

Can you work on your own initiative?

Although you might work in a group practice and have a full team to assist and rely upon, most of your working day will consist of you, your patient and your intuition. This is vastly different to working in a hospital setting. This can be a lonely experience for some, or a very rewarding journey for others.

Are you business minded?

In time, many GPs become principals in their surgery. This is not just the lead clinician but also the employer and “boss” of their team. This is both rewarding and stressful. You are responsible for payroll, paying suppliers, staff issues and conflicts among staff members. You are where the buck stops. Many find this a positive in their career but others find this a negative experience – many GPs will say that it is this element of practice that causes them the most headaches!

Would you like the opportunity to develop your own work-life balance?

A very attractive part of general practice is that you control your own working life. This means that you can choose to work out of hours if you wish, but it is not necessarily an inherent part of the job as most GPs are part of large co-operatives now which reduces their out of hours commitment to a minimum. It is quite possible to work part-time as a GP and part-time in another role, for example teaching, getting involved in leadership positions within the profession and, of course, spending time with one’s family.

Pathway to general practice in Ireland

There are 14 general practice training programmes in Ireland.
GP training is a four-year programme, with two years spent in relevant clinical attachments and two years spent as registrars in a GP practice. Training programmes also operate day release programmes.
When a trainee successfully completes their training they are issued with a Certificate of Satisfactory Completion of Training. This certificate, along with passing the four modules of the MICGP exam, allows a trainee to become a fully-qualified GP.
The Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) is the body responsible for overseeing the professional development of GPs and is also the organisation through which applications to become a GP trainee are made. For more information see www.icgp.ie

If you found this post useful or you are interested in working in Ireland, please feel free to contact Med Doc on +353 1 901 1306 or register with is on www.meddoc.ie

*content courtesy of Dr Shane McKeogh