Imagine spending the first decade or so of your career as a GP before making the move into a new specialty. This actually happens quite frequently. And it turns out that a lot of GPs transition into psychiatry out of a desire to do something completely different. By all accounts, such a transition can be a tremendous learning experience as well as a significant enhancement to the doctor’s career.

For the purposes of this post, we scoured the internet to see if we could find any helpful tips that seasoned psychiatrists might offer to GPs making a move. We did not find a lot, but what we did find is very intriguing. Reading the tips give us a better understanding of how different life is for the psychiatrist.

Here are some of the tips we found, offered by veteran psychiatrists:

Tip #1: Be Willing to Work as a Locum

Psychiatry jobs are definitely not the easiest in the physician portfolio. Psychiatrists have to deal with both physical and psychological problems that may or may not be due to medical issues. They must walk a fine line in order to provide the right kind of care without making matters worse. Given this reality, mastering psychiatry takes a lot of practice. It might be good for the GP to start the transition to psychiatry by working as a locum first.

Locum work allows the GP to ease into psychiatry rather than taking the plunge all at once. It offers invaluable experience the doctor can use throughout the remainder of his or her career in psychiatry. As an added bonus, locum work also provides the opportunity of making excellent connections.

Tip #2: Take Advantage of “Ride Alongs”

Before a rookie police officer is turned loose by him/herself, he/she typically spends at least some time riding along with a veteran officer. This very good principle applies to GPs transitioning to psychiatry jobs. Some psychiatrists recommend tagging along on institutional visits with psychiatric nurses or doctors. These kinds of experiences give the GP opportunities to observe psychiatry in the real world.

Tip #3: Don’t Set Aside Physical Medicine

One of the strengths of the GP transitioning into psychiatry is his or her existing knowledge of physical medicine. Having spent so many years as a GP, the doctor has dealt with all sorts of physical maladies that may very well have an effect on psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. The most successful continually rely on their past physical medicine experience during their entire time practicing psychiatry.

Tip #4: Get Some Personality Disorder Training

Psychiatric patients can be especially challenging when they have certain personality disorders that make them uncooperative and/or violent. It is not uncommon for the GP moving into psychiatry to be scared off at the first violent encounter. For safety purposes, veteran psychiatrists recommend GPs familiarize themselves with personality disorders by taking advantage of extra training programs.

Tip #5: Network with Other Psychiatrists

Veteran psychiatrists are a wealth of information whether they are practicing privately, employed at an institution, or working as locums. Any GP planning to make the transition should avail him/herself of the wisdom and guidance of veterans. Networking with other psychiatrists is the best way to do this. Veterans also offer an understanding ear when the transitioning GP simply needs to vent.

Moving from a GP practice into a psychiatry job can be an exciting opportunity for the doctor looking for a change. Making that move the right way will set the doctor up for a very rewarding career practicing a new kind of medicine.