How to Become a Doctor

Doctors are responsible for promoting, maintaining or restoring health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of a disease, injury or other physical or mental impairments. Each doctor’s responsibilities may vary depending on their role and under what conditions they choose to work. So they can either decide whether they want to become a general practitioner or a hospital doctor.

General practitioners are responsible for providing primary and continuing medical care for patients in the community. They diagnose various illnesses and recommend appropriate treatment. When needed, they also refer patients to hospital clinics for further assessment or treatment and may run specialist clinics within the practice for patients with specific conditions.

Hospital doctors examine, diagnose and treat patients who have been referred to the hospital by GP’s and other professionals. They work closely other healthcare professionals including nurses, radiographers, pharmacists, and physiotherapists and may refer patients to them. They work inward and outpatient clinics, in public and private sector.

Key Responsibilities

For most doctors work depends on their speciality and the work environment they are based. A hospital doctor working as a surgeon for example, will have different daily tasks to a general physician.

However, the following duties are likely to be carried out on a daily or weekly basis by hospital doctors regardless of their speciality:

  • Monitoring and providing general care to patients on hospital wards and in outpatient clinics
  • Admitting patients requiring special care, followed by investigations and treatment
  • Examining and talking to patients to diagnose their medical conditions
  • Carrying out specific procedures, e.g. performing operations and specialist investigations
  • Making notes and preparing paperwork, both as a legal record of treatment and for the benefit of other healthcare professionals
  • Working with other doctors as part of a team, either in the same department or within other specialities
  • Liaising with other medical and non-medical staff in the hospital to ensure quality treatment
  • Promoting health education
  • Undertaking managerial responsibilities such as planning the workload and staffing of the department, especially at more senior levels
  • Teaching and supervising junior doctors and medical students
  • Carrying out auditing and research

The following are responsibilities carried out by general practitioners:

  • Responding to medical/health problems presented by patients including history taking, diagnosis, investigation, treatment, and referral as appropriate
  • Maintaining confidentiality and impartiality
  • Commissioning healthcare by liaising with medical professionals in the community and hospitals
  • Promoting health education in conjunction with other health professionals
  • Organising preventative medical programmes for individual patients
  • Providing specialist clinics for specific conditions or for certain groups, e.g. diabetes, smoking cessation and new babies
  • Meeting targets set by the government for specific treatments, such as child immunisations
  • Discussing the development of new pharmaceutical products with pharmaceutical sales representatives
  • Managing resources to handle targets as effectively as possible
  • Using IT skills – some practices have one partner who specialises in the use of IT within the practice but all will be expected to
  • Having basic abilities for work, such as maintaining patients’ records using specific packages
  • Keeping up to date with medical developments, new drugs, treatments and medications, including complementary medicine
  • Observing and assessing the work of trainee GPs and medical students and teaching at medical schools or hospitals
  • Maintaining a portfolio of continuing professional development (CPD) activities

Essential Skills and Qualities

If you are interested in becoming a doctor here is a list of the professional skills and qualities you will need:

  • Commitment to caring for others
  • Resourcefulness and stamina
  • Willingness to accept responsibility
  • Ability to prioritise workload
  • Ability to work under pressure
  • Motivation and perseverance
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Empathy, compassion, and reflection
  • Team working and leadership skills

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