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A Practical Guide to GP Training


A lot of trainees have been asking for more information about GP training and what lies ahead. Here it is, we’ll explore what may be expected of you and how you can safeguard your well-being as a trainee. In this article you’ll also learn about how to make the best of your rotations, a bit about reflection and managing uncertainty and finally what to do with failure. We have a lot to cover let’s get right into it.

Begin With The End In Sight

Imagine yourself as a competent GP, confident and knowledgeable in the surgery. Take in the atmosphere of the room as the GPs carry out their duties with ease, always ready to answer any queries. This is your future reality, and with the right mindset, you can achieve it. Embrace this vision and let it shape your path towards becoming the exceptional GP you aspire to be.

When you encounter a difficult situation, try to put yourself in the shoes of a GP and consider how you might have responded. This approach can help you cultivate your curiosity and critical thinking skills, which are essential for your growth and development as a trainee. By adopting a patient perspective and posing questions to your registrar, consultant, or GP, you can encourage your clinical supervisor to share their knowledge and expertise with you.

Suppose you are a patient and you visit a GP with symptoms related to pregnancy such as nausea, vomiting, or a urine culture that shows group b strep. In this case, it is crucial to gather all the necessary information about the systems that are in place, such as booking a scan or getting a referral. Knowing about these aspects is as important as making a clinical diagnosis and can help you feel more confident in assessing any condition. Using these types of frameworks during your tutorial sessions can be very beneficial for organising and presenting information in a clear and concise manner. By utilising patient oriented frameworks, you can better understand complex primary care concepts and retain information more effectively. This is because you can remember how the encounter made you feel. Additionally, patient oriented frameworks can help you identify key points and connections between ideas, leading to a deeper understanding of the clinical knowledge summaries. It would greatly enhance the learning experience for both you and your supervisor.

Reflective Practice : Friend or Foe

It is important to reflect on your learning and document workplace-based assessments as evidence of training engagement, ensuring all criteria are met for a smooth ARCP.

You may have come across varying opinions regarding the use of reflection and e-portfolios. While some trainees view it as the sole component within their control and begin working on it early, others tend to avoid it until the last minute. Furthermore, evaluating your e-portfolio may be novel for you and your supervisor. Therefore, it is advisable to openly discuss their feedback with them. Utilise the capability areas outlined in the e-portfolio to reflect on your learning and effectively showcase the requirements for every scenario.

Evidently, It’s important to understand that the greatest accomplishments in VTS training come from personal growth and mindset, as well as the impact you have on your patients and the connections you establish with your colleagues. Incorporate these elements into your reflective write-ups and case reviews to showcase your progress.

See article on a guide to reflection here.

GP TRAINING –VTS MEETING -Photo by Athena from Pexels
Managing Uncertainty

Congratulations you are well on your way into your training but you feel uneasy with most situations that you come across. You may find it difficult to make up your mind about what a patient presents with. This is true even for experienced GPs. Family medicine is a profession that deals with undifferentiated problems in the context of individual patients, their family and community and is not limited to a particular organ or disease.

The good news is as you learn communication skills, referral protocols, pharmacology, and population medicine, you will build a sound base and confidence for the everyday work as a GP. Read more about managing uncertainty here.


You are nearly at the end now and you have the 2 part MRCGP exams in sight. There is a well-established statistic regarding differential attainment outcomes for trainees on their first attempts based on their sex, source of primary medical qualification and ethnicity.

Interestingly, It seems more likely you would achieve a pass in your exams after a rotation in primary care. Therefore, it’s advisable to consider attempting the exams in the latter half of your ST2 or early to mid-ST3. However, avoid leaving it too late or taking it too early. Disappointment is part of the bargain when you are attempting to strive towards any goal or objective. Don’t alienate yourself. Practice in small groups regularly.

Failing an exam can be a difficult experience that can make you question your future as a GP. It may feel like a mid-life crisis, causing negative emotions such as self-pity, anger, embarrassment, shame, and a sense of failure. However, it’s important not to let these emotions take over. You’ve likely achieved many accomplishments in your earlier years, and there is help available through PSW’s confidential support for trainees. They can connect you with a communication skills provider or provide a support team tailored to your needs after an unsuccessful exam attempt.

RoadtoUK guide for IMGs provides free ebooks on various aspects of being a doctor in the UK.

Wellbeing Strategy

It is important to prioritise your well-being, This includes taking breaks at work and planning your leave appropriately, whether it be for study or annual leave. Keep in mind that other types of leave, such as prolonged sickness absences, maternity or paternity leave, may result in an extended training time. Working less than full-time could help you achieve a better work-life balance that suits your unique situation.

Most trainees would experience an enduring relationship with their trainers, with open communication and understanding you would be able to develop such a relationship. However, if you experience a breakdown in the relationship or a mismatch in values or vision, don’t hesitate to seek alternative trainers/supervisors. Be proactive in recognising burnout by learning how to identify the signs. Read more here.

…general practice learning is a marathon, not a sprint.

Overall, look after your health, and as you practice conscientiously preserve your greatest asset – yourself.

Finally, remember that general practice learning is a marathon, not a sprint. Best wishes in your training.

4 thoughts on “A Practical Guide to GP Training”

  1. An excellent guide for new GP trainees, even mature GP trainees will benefit. The guide that I wish was written several years ago when I was a fresh faced GPST1. Kudos for a well written piece!

  2. Thank you for this lovely piece.
    We kindly asked for a nice guide for trainees and as you promised earlier, you didn’t disappoint at all.
    Thank you for the amazing information and the beautiful and clear guide .
    More power to your elbow and more ink to your 🖊.

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