General practitioners (GPs) are doctors who know how to treat many different health problems across all age groups.
In Australia, GPs must complete specialist medical training after their university medical degree and internship. This training usually takes another three years.
You might see a GP at a surgery in your neighbourhood, at a bigger local health centre or clinic, at an after-hours surgery near a hospital or at a GP super clinic. If you live in a rural or remote area, you might see a GP as part of a visiting GP service.
Your GP is always a good place to start if you’re worried about your child’s health or development or your health. Your GP can help you decide about seeing other health professionals or refer you to a specialist.
Why your child might see a GP
Think of a GP as the first person to go to when anyone in your family has a health problem. GPs can help work out what’s going on.
GPs can also give immunisations and medication for illnesses, check on your child’s health and development, treat cuts and other minor injuries, and send you to specialists.
If you can, it’s good to find a GP whom your family trusts and feels comfortable with, so that you can get to know each other and talk openly.
A GP who knows you and your child can often more easily work out what health problems you have. The GP might also be able to help you avoid health problems in the first place.
If your child is a teenager, it can be good for her to get used to seeing the GP alone, for at least part of a consultation. Generally, GPs who see teenagers will try to arrange for this to happen. By the later teenage years, your child will probably be comfortable seeing the GP for the whole consultation by herself.
It’s also good if everyone in your family sees the same GP, or GPs in the same general practice, so that all your medical information is together.
Before going to a GP
Before seeing the GP, it’s a good idea to find out some information about the following things:
Waiting lists and times: how long before you can get an appointment to see the GP?
Making an appointment: it might take you more than one phone call to make an appointment.
Costs: how much will the appointment with the GP cost? It might be expensive, so you could check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance or whether you can get some other kind of financial help.
Locations: find out where you have to go to see the GP – for example, a local medical centre, super clinic or an after-hours surgery. You might have to travel further than you expect, depending on your child’s needs, what time of day it is and how urgently you need to see a GP.
You might want to talk about these things and any other questions you have with the GP clinic before you see the GP. A good time to do this is when you contact the clinic to make an appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.