Everyone should have a general practitioner or “GP”. Also known as the “local doctor”, a GP has a wide range of medical and surgical knowledge and cares for a diverse range of patients. Ideally a GP should coordinate the overall medical care of their patients.
This includes focusing on preventive medicine as well as caring for acute and chronic conditions as they arise. A GP will refer their patients for specialist management when required and will communicate with the various specialists involved to ensure optimal patient care.
It is not unusual for GPs to develop a specialty area of interest.
Your GP should be your first port of call if you have any non-emergency medical problem or question you need answering.
- Preventive Medicine
- Travel advice
- Health checks
- Baby checks
- Developmental assessment
- Pap smears
- Breast examination
- Prostate examination
- Blood pressure
- Acute care of many conditions with referral as appropriate
- Exacerbation of chronic problems
- Chronic illness management, whether medical, surgical or psychiatric
- Thyroid disease
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart failure
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Emphysema (COPD)
- Mild kidney failure
- Multiple sclerosis
Specialty Areas of Interest
GPs may develop any one of a diverse area of interests. Examples include:
- Paediatrics (children)
- Women’s health
- Pregnancy and obstetrics
- Minor surgery
- Complementary medicine
- Men’s health
- Sports medicine
- Palliative care (care of the dying)
- Geriatrics (care of the elderly)
A GP has access to numerous tests, often referring patients for formal investigation off site.
Many GP practices can perform electrocardiograms (ECG), blood sugar levels, peak flow measurements and basic lung function tests.
They will refer for blood tests, other laboratory investigations including analysis of urine, stool or other body fluids. They may refer for imaging by a radiologist or radiographer. X-Rays, CT scan and ultrasound are commonly requested.
- Minor surgery
- Suturing wounds
- Excision of skin lesions
- Cryotherapy (freezing) of skin lesions
- Pap smears
- Complementary therapies such as acupuncture may be offered
What to Expect
To be a good general practitioner your GP will want to know all about your medical history. On the first visit you may spend a considerable amount of time giving background information before getting onto the current problem, or “presenting complaint”. This is so the GP can build a picture of your current state of health, your risk factors and possible future problems. Taking a full history will make the assessment of your current complaint and any future problems more accurate. Treatment and advice will also be able to be tailored to your lifestyle and individual case.
The GP will ask about past medical, surgical and psychiatric history. They will ask about medications, immunisations, allergies, social history including employment, drug and alcohol use, smoking and sexual history. Family history is also important.
After gathering enough background information the GP will focus on the current problem and decide on the best line of further investigation and management.
Your GP will tailor your examination according to the current problem. Your temperature, pulse and blood pressure are commonly checked. If the problem involves your ears or throat examination will focus there, alternatively if it involves your bladder, abdominal, genital and rectal examination will be important.
Use HealthEngine to find and book your next available GP appointment either with your regular GP or one nearby.
Training and Qualifications
- Find a General Practitioner
- Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
- Wikipedia – General Practitioner
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as medical advice. If in doubt, HealthEngine recommends consulting with a registered health practitioner.