Why do I need a doctor when I am one?

Medical literature frequently highlights the proven benefits of having your own doctor. But do doctors heed this advice? We speak with Dr Liz Campbell about why having a GP is worthwhile and what makes doctors unique patients. A younger GP based near Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, Dr Campbell routinely sees doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals as patients. Her employer, Synergy Medical Practice is voluntarily listed on AMA NSW website as a practice interested in taking on doctors as patients.

The hurdles that prevent doctors from taking care of themselves are widely acknowledged – from the lack of hours in a day to the high level of professional training and medical knowledge that often leads to self-diagnosis.  

When doctors come to consults they often have a diagnosis in mind and are looking for confirmation or a second opinion. Doctor patients can behave differently from other patients because they tend to manage health issues in the background, that other patients would seek help for, Dr Campbell says.

Doctors tend only to come for really serious concerns or where they need additional professional expertise outside their usual scope. While some doctors are seeking a longer-term therapeutic relationship, others attend on an ad hoc basis.

“There is an opportunity to promote health in either of those approaches. Even if someone comes and probably won’t come often – there are still opportunities to let them remind them you are there to support them, that their consults are confidential and they are welcome to come for more complex issues as well,” suggests Dr Campbell.

Dr Campbell has found having her own GP a positive experience. “Outsourcing your health concerns to a professional is invaluable. You just can’t be objective about yourself. I think it also provides an opportunity to relieve the burden of trying to figure things out all for yourself or self-diagnose,” she says.

Importance of own GP for newer doctors

She acknowledges that it can be especially challenging for doctors when they are early in their career and moving around often. “I definitely found that when I was rotating around different parts of NSW, it was hard to get that continuity but it’s good to know where a local doctor is so even if you’re in a temporary placement, it’s nice to know you have somewhere to go”.

Three reasons to have your own GP

  • It can provide you with extra confidence when you are looking after other people’s health on a daily basis.
  • The confidentiality offered in a proper (not corridor) consult enables genuine, open  conversation
  • A professional opinion relieves the burden and risk of self-diagnosis.

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