Dr Karen Sylvester

Somerset LMC Chairman

Dr Karen Sylvester

What’s the best thing about being a GP?

I am very much a people person and it’s being able to meet someone and listen to their story and hopefully help them at the end of that, which I think is an amazing opportunity. That’s what keeps me going and the bit I love most about my job.

What are the worst things about being a GP?

Because of your availability you’ve got a continuous demand on you as a doctor and as a resource. It’s not just about the medicine, but patients might also come for support with their housing benefit. There’s a lot of mental health involved in general practice, it can be really hard to help them, so that for me is quite difficult.

What do you like about living and working in Somerset?

I am really lucky where I live, it’s semi-rural so I am just behind some farmers fields at the edge of a town. When I go for a run I occasionally say hello to the farmer in his tractor who knows me well now. I have two children who are quite sporty and we play a lot of tennis, we have done a lot of cricket and we have been quite involved with the local hockey club as well. If you have active children and if you’re active yourself it’s brilliant – it’s great for outdoor life and activities here.

If you could give future GPs one piece of advice what would it be?

Be sure of who you are as a person, because it’s at times quite an emotionally challenging job that taxes your mind – you see a variety of patients at every stage of their life. Just because you made it through medical school doesn’t necessarily make you a good GP, being good with patients and knowing who you are will help you do that to the best of your ability. If you’re a well-grounded person, then this is the job for you.

How would you describe the community that surrounds you?

It’s brilliant here…we’ve got a nice mix of patients in Glastonbury, we’ve got theeccentric lot that you all know and see on television but we have quite a large farming community, plus the Clarks factory nearby and a plastics factory. We’ve got quite a range of patients with different problems that are all very unique. One lovely aspect is the baker who brings us treats at Christmas and Easter. It’s got a lovely community feel. The other bit that has taken off in the last couple of years is a network of female GPs who meet at least twice a year for extra support.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you do with it?

The one bit that would make a change to general practice would be improving public health and patient self-management. We don’t have that community that we had before and so people don’t talk to each other and solve simple problems that perhaps your grandmother might have dealt with in the past. We’re not eating well, we’re not exercising and life is so stressful now there’s a huge increase in mental health problems.

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