Dr Jonathan Tan never planned on becoming a GP. For many years he fixed his sights on studying Emergency Medicine, but the introduction of the ‘four-hour rule’, coupled with his desire to thoroughly complete tasks, caused him to follow a different career path.
At the suggestion of a Fremantle Hospital physician during his intern year, he applied to specialise in general practice in his second residency year.
Two weeks into his first GP placement, he realised he had found his calling with general practice and never looked back.
Dr Tan said one of the best aspects of general practice is the ability to "custom-fit" the vocation to an individual practitioner's clinical interests.
“Some GPs enjoy procedural work, some women’s and children’s health, others chronic disease,” he said.
Dr Tan Fellowed with the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners in 2019.
Soon after completing his Fellowship, he became a WAGPET GP supervisor, and has been involved in training many registrars across six main teaching practices in his medical group.
“GPs often define themselves by their areas of interest. Skin cancer GPs, GPs with an interest in travel medicine or mental health. I have always considered myself to be a ‘doctor who teaches’,” Dr Tan said.
“Working in the outer metro region allows me to be close to loved ones and amenities.
“It also grants me access to be able to teach others.
“I am privileged enough to be able to mentor UWA and Curtin medical students.
“I am able to take students for GP placements from each of the three WA medical schools, as well as being involved in entry interviews for each university from year to year.”
Dr Tan said he also enjoys the flexibility that the GP profession provides.
“General practice gives me the ability to pursue my interests in clinical work and medical education, in addition to my interests in 'having a life',” he said.
Dr Tan’s advice to future general practitioners is to remember the profound effect a good GP can have on their patients and the community.
“I think it is important that collectively we don’t forget this,” he said.
“General Practice as a specialty is arguably still stained by somewhat of a historical inferiority complex, which puzzles me when I look at the quality of a large number of my colleagues.”
Dr Tan asked future GPs to remember why they chose the profession when things get tough.
“The biggest challenge for new doctors in the field is the uncertainty,” he said.
“Not knowing if you’ll ever manage to keep your knowledge up to date, across all medical specialties, for the rest of your career, is scary. Keep at it though, it gets easier.
"Besides, uncertainty is half the fun of generalism.
“If we wanted jobs doing that which is comfortable and familiar, we would have 'settled' for a different specialty.”