The atypical route to becoming a GP

The majority of medical students at the University of Manchester will have studied at least one science-based subject at A-Level and in most cases all three. So how did Eilis MacLoughlin go from completing no A-Levels in a scientific field to graduating from medicine and becoming a fully-fledged General Practitioner (GP)? Find out how she did it below and also discover why the GP route might be ideal for you…

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I started Medical School at The University of Manchester in 2009 after originally completing an MA in Religious studies in Edinburgh in 2007. I hadn’t done any science subjects at A-level so when it came to studying medicine I had three alternative routes to go down. I could either apply to a graduate course in Medicine, do Pre-Med, or complete an Access course.

I opted for a year-long Access course (although I did apply to graduate Medicine as well) and got on to one at The Manchester College in Ardwick/Hyde. The course was a H.E Diploma in Access to Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy and it covered all the sciences and maths at an A-Level standard, as well as ICT. The year before this I worked as a carer to get some health experience.

Thankfully, I got into The University of Manchester and the rest is history. I loved the pbl structure of the course, the city, and all the different people I met on my degree and continue to meet. I feel Manchester prepared us for our working lives as we got clinical experience early on and lots of training on our communication skills, which is really important (especially as a GP!) As a mature student and having done an Access course in Manchester, I was able to apply to a couple of bursaries from the University which really helped. Doing another degree is expensive but It was worth it in the end!

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My base hospital was at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI) and when I graduated I went on to work as a junior Doctor in Oldham. I had done placements there as a student and really enjoyed them, so wanted to go back. After two years there I then went straight into GP training in Stockport. My jobs were varied at Oldham which helped me for life as a Gp. I did a couple of jobs in medicine, one in surgery, one in Paediatrics, a GP rotation and finished on A&E, however, I have known all along that I wanted to become a GP.

Halfway through my training I had my first baby and took a full year of maternity leave. The support you get as a mum in GP training is brilliant; I’ve found the profession to be extremely family-friendly. I am now in my final year of GP training and due to have my second baby in March. I will then complete my training when I return after another year of Mat leave and plan to work in the same area.

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For any students wanting to apply to GP I’d definitely try to get as much exposure to different GP practices as you can beforehand. Either in the tracks you choose as a junior or arranging some time where you could shadow/do work experience in one. Lots of practices are different and lots of GPs are different so it’s finding somewhere that suits you.

There are so many options with GP to have another interest as well. A lot of GPs work less than full time (LTFT) and split their week between two different jobs. I also think it helps you to maintain a healthy work-life balance and this is great when you have a family and other interests outside of work as it allows you to maintain some normality in your life.


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