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 3 years.
You might see a GP at a clinic in your neighbourhood or an after-hours clinic near a hospital. 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 alone for the whole consultation.
Before going to a GP
Before seeing the GP, it’s a good idea to find out about things like the following:
- Appointments: what’s the best way to make an appointment – phone, online or app? Does the appointment need to be in person, or can it be via telehealth?
- Waiting lists: how long before you can get an appointment to see the GP?
- Is there anything you can do while you’re waiting for the appointment? For example, you could keep a record of your child’s symptoms.
- Costs: how much will the appointment with the GP cost? Check whether you can get money back from Medicare or private health insurance.
- Locations: find out where you have to go to see the GP – for example, a local medical centre, an after-hours surgery or a hospital.
It’s a good idea to ask these questions when you first contact the GP practice to make an appointment. It’s also a good idea to write down any questions you have, so you don’t forget.