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 degrees and internships. This training usually takes another three years.
You might see a GP at a clinic in your neighbourhood, at a bigger local health centre or clinic, at an after-hours clinic 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.
Health advice and support from your GP is essential to helping your child grow and develop well in childhood and adolescence. The GP is also there to care for your health and wellbeing. When you’re physically, emotionally and mentally well, it helps your child thrive.
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, growth and development, treat minor injuries, and send you to specialists.
If you can, it’s good to find a family GP you trust and feel 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 you have a teenage child, it can be good for your child 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 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 about the following things:
- Waiting lists and times: how long before you can get an appointment to see the GP?
- Appointments: what’s the best way to make an appointment – phone, online or app?
- 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.
It’s a good idea to ask these questions when you first contact the practice to make an appointment. It’s a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.