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Training to be a Doctor

February 2013

Training to be a doctorWHEN DOCTOR KNOWS BEST!

Everyone knows the NHS is overstretched and doctors don’t have all the time they would like to get to know and talk to their patients.

Most of us are also on the internet and have access to a wealth of international information on almost every possible disease and condition. This can mean we often believe we have good background knowledge of what we think our problem is before we even consult our doctor.

These two aspects puts GPs, or general practitioners, at a disadvantage as they need time to assess your symptoms and also to consider other options of which you may be unaware. Patients can be critical of doctors if they don’t immediately consider what the patient thinks is the problem; and in some cases patients may have specific information which the doctor can’t immediately access.

Whatever the cause, doctors do receive far more criticism than in the days when we were younger, and it is worth having a brief understanding of the training every UK doctor has been through to ensure we pay due attention to their theories and recommendations.

Students who wish to become doctors first of course have to do well in their school subjects, especially in core subjects such as the sciences and maths. If they are accepted, they then go onto medical school for four to six years. Medical schools are attached to universities and the studying will include numerous exams and also clinical placements in hospitals and community settings.

Following a student’s satisfactory completion of medical school, he or she can then go on to complete the required two year foundation programme. This is a generic training programme where work experience is combined with training and the student rotates through different medical specialist areas. Towards the end of the Foundation, a student usually makes a choice of where they wish to specialize and becoming a general practitioner is one of these choices.

To train as a GP requires another three years study and work, although this may be extended to five years. This is not just a simple follow on from earlier training, you have to actively make a decision to become a GP and be trained through a system where everything is very carefully monitored. There is a National Recruitment Office for General Practice Training which is an administrative body to co-ordinate recruitment to general practice training programmes,

Once the training is completed, a doctor has to be accepted onto the General Medical Council (GMC) before he or she can practice in the UK. Once registered, a licence to practice will be issued.

There are numerous other bodies that help to oversee training and ensure standards are kept up to the highest possible levels. For instance, there is the Royal College of General Practitioners, a professional membership body for family doctors in the UK which is committed to improving patient care, clinical standards and GP training.

When you begin to realize the length and depth of training that doctors have had to undertake before becoming qualified to see you in their visiting rooms, it is easier to appreciate that their depth of knowledge is a million light years away from quick facts you may have gleaned on the internet.

Certainly it can be helpful to research your symptoms and have a clear idea of what you wish to tell your doctor before the visit. And yes, certainly doctors can make mistakes and miss symptoms. But generally, the old adage can still be knows best!

Information on training to be a doctor from the NHS.

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