Saturday, February 2, 2013

What should new GPs read?

There are many doctors around Australia who have just started their higher professional training to become a GP, the most effective of medical specialists. The learning curve from hospital to primary care is often steep. People can present with anything, everything and nothing, the medical is intertwined with the social, cultural, economic and political, and working out what to do can be quite unclear. All of this happens in a room with a closed door and no one else around, unlike in the hospital wards, which are far from private. It's testament to the quality of doctors choosing to do GP training and the quality of GPs doing the training that so many do so well.

So, with this in mind, and now a couple of weeks in, it's worth thinking about what would be ideal introductory reading for a new GP?

I received a few very interesting suggestions on Twitter.

 It's interesting that when people want to recommend reading to produce good GPs, they don't go for writing about diseases, they go for writing about understanding humans in difficult circumstances, often serious illness.

(The obvious exception is Deborah Verran's suggestion. Will the use of social media be so crucial that we all need to know it? Is it comparable with, say, skills like minor surgery, breaking bad news or clinical audit - whether we like it or not we are just going to have to do it? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this - comment below or tweet on the #supertwision hashtag)

What would I suggest? Here would be my top 3 suggested readings. Of course, I might change my mind, but these are today's thoughts. And, somewhat to my suprise, this is all core general practice literature. But all three have changed my practice for the better.

3. General Practice by Prof John Murtagh
What Australian GP could go without Murtagh? Just about every GP I know has one close at hand. Though the clinical chapters are excellent, the safe diagnostic strategy outlined in the early part of the book is gold for any GP at any stage in their career.

2. The Doctor, his patient and the illness by Michael Balint
Excuse the inappropriate gender specific pronoun here. This book was published in 1957, and is arguably the best book on general practice ever written. This was the book that moved general practice away from a purely biomedical paradigm and made the profession take an interest in the dynamics of what was happening when a doctor and a patient meet in a room. There's been a lot of other work done on this since then, but Balint is still a cracking read, full of mind-expanding insight. You can get a taste of the ideas here. ("the most frequently used drug in general practice was the doctor himself”). Don't rely just on this summary - do read the book. And don't worry if you're not sure about the group methodology - the insights are still valuable.

1. The Mystery of General Practice by Iona Heath
This is the best, and most beautifully written, description of general practice I have come across. It's a must-read for anyone interested in what your family doctor does. It's short (easily the shortest of these threee recommendations) and you can download it for free at the link above. You might start reading and worry about the relevance of commentary on 18 year old health reforms in another country. But don't worry. It's highly relevant still, and the description of the role of a GP in a community and in reducing health inequalities will make you proud of your chosen profession.

Those are my top 3 picks. I'd love to hear your suggestions, either tweeted on the #supertwision hashtag, or posted as comments here. And if you don't post your suggestions, Michael Bonning will have to read what I suggest. Is that really fair?

1 comment:

  1. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World
    Tracy Kidder (Author)
    Inspiring, compassionate and very well written.