Health - mental health, staying well

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Why do I need a GP?

Your health is your most precious asset. Being healthy is more than not being sick – it's about mental and emotional health, your physical health and your sense of wellbeing.

Medical students are busy and often stressed, and may find it hard to find time to think about being healthy. If you ask yourself, “what would I recommend to a patient in my age and professional demographic about health care?”, you would reasonably suggest a healthy diet, enough exercise, regular breaks from work and an annual check-up with a GP.

Fewer than 40% of medical practitioners have their own GP, so the medical profession itself does not have a good track record.
You should change this and establish better patterns of care for yourself and your family.

Doctors and medical students seem to have the very worst health care. They tend to self-diagnose, self-prescribe and self-refer. It's difficult for us to be patients. We see the value of patients having a personal doctor who knows their history and gives personal care, but, in a strange twist of thinking, we don't see that this applies to ourselves and our families.

So take your own best advice. Find a GP you trust and let them manage your health care. Have a regular check-up. Encourage your colleagues to do the same. And let another doctor use their time and objectivity to manage your family's health.

How to approach a medical consultation when you are a patient

It can be hard to change from thinking like a doctor to thinking like a patient, and some doctors and students find it hard to admit they are unwell.

They often think they need to have made their own diagnosis and have a management plan in mind, or that they shouldn’t seek medical advice unless they are really sick.

This often means they don’t attend for preventive health and check-ups, present very late when in crisis, and find it very difficult to seek help for things like stress, depression and anxiety.

Sometimes students and doctors conceal the fact that they are in the medical profession or attend an afterhours clinic that doesn’t know them – just so they can be a patient.

Sometimes the doctor finds it hard too, because they are unsure how you want to be approached – like a doctor or like a patient.

The best approach is to find a doctor you feel comfortable with – this might take some shopping around. Ask friends and colleagues.
Make an appointment and tell the doctor you are a medical student but that you want to be treated like any other patient. If you don’t get better – go back. If you don’t feel comfortable, try another GP.

Confidentiality

Concerns around confidentiality are a significant barrier to students and doctors accessing appropriate medical care.

Maintaining appropriate confidentiality is one of the most important roles of any professional. You can have confidence that whether you see a doctor at the university medical service or outside it that your privacy will be respected.

You should ask about this if you feel concerned.

It is a good idea not to choose your colleagues, supervisors or teachers as your doctor where possible, as it is important to separate your healthcare from your role as a student.

Where your safety or that of patients might be at risk because of a health or psychological issue, your doctor will discuss the need to involve others in your care. This is the same for any patient who may be at risk.

How to find your own GP

There are many excellent general practitioners close the University.

Try looking in the Yellow Pages or search online.

The University Health Service is on campus, has many excellent GPs and bulk-bills.

AMSA (Australian Medical Students Association, www.amsa.org.au) has a list on its website of GPs who have indicated a willingness to see medical students as patients and are willing to bulk-bill.
Your clinical school will also have a list of GPs in their local area.

Every General Practitioner in Australia since 1996 has been through a comprehensive training program.
These doctors will have the FRACGP (Fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners) or FACRRM (Fellow of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine) letters after their name.
Qualified GPs prior to 1996 may not have this qualification, but may have years of experience.

The most important thing is finding a GP who you can talk to and who makes you feel comfortable.

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