Community Spotlight: Dr Yan Zhuang
Not everyone needs a surgeon, or a dermatologist, or a cardiologist. Everyone, needs a GP.
Q: Why did you choose a career in GP?
A: General practice is a multi-faceted, dynamic and flexible career path, which gives practitioners the chance to truly choose exactly how they wish to practice as a doctor. The coveted work-life balance that time-poor doctors so often find elusive, the variability in skill sets and knowledge that a GP can tap into to uniquely serve their community, and the diversity in patient populations that GPs have access to treating. Having that balance is critical to enjoying our work in healthcare as doctors. The flexibility is found in having the opportunity to, say, work a couple days in a GP practice, dabble in a sub-specialty such as anaesthetics or occupational health, and then perhaps working an after-hours run doing home visits, or a stretch helping out in the local emergency department. As GPs, you choose how you want to practice, to be the kind of doctor you want to be.
Q: What do you love about being a GP?
A: Without a doubt, what I have come to love most about being a GP, are my patients and their individual stories and journeys in understanding and improving their health. It is a constantly evolving, and complete, patient-doctor relationship that does not come to an abrupt halt or is manifestly disjointed like care often is in a hospital or specialist setting. When in the hospital or specialist clinic, you are left wondering what happened to Mrs. Smith after her hip was replaced, or Mr. Jones after his triple bypass. In primary practice, you can complete all the puzzles and answer all the questions. The satisfaction of appreciating the impact as a GP, your advice and expertise has in guiding a patient through the challenges they face in life. And most importantly, that trust they place in you as their doctor; knowing that in their state of vulnerability, they will always have your genuine support.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges?
A: I find the biggest challenge I face in general practice is knowing my personal limitations, and the limitations of modern medicine in provisioning quality healthcare. This can manifest in many ways: from challenges in treatment, to challenges in securing quality specialist treatment, to delivering difficult news. The challenge, sometimes, of having to say “I am sorry but I cannot help you”. This can be anything from the frustration of being unable to find a satisfactory analgesia regimen to help a patient with post-operative pain, to the pain of telling a patient and their partner whom you’ve known for over a decade who bravely fought off cancer once before, that it has come back and is now terminal.
With the world in this digital age evolving so quickly, as medical pharmaceuticals and treatment modalities become increasingly diverse, the kind of health questions we face moving forward will be vastly different from those faced by our predecessors in the field. Being able to keep up with this pace of growth and development is a monumental challenge, but all the more exciting as well.
Q: What advice would you give someone considering a career in GP?
A: Delight in the opportunities and freedom to establish your own personal way of practicing medicine; the permutations are quintessentially endless. Ignore the stigmata select medical groups may endeavour to label you with when faced with the comment you are ‘’just a GP’’. Not everyone needs a surgeon, or a dermatologist, or a cardiologist. Everyone, needs a GP. Never be afraid to say ‘’I don’t know”. Grasp such times as opportunities to further your learning, and find those colleagues and supervisors whose practice ethics and ideals mirror your own, to extract what pearls of wisdom you can to evolve and adapt your own practice.