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Dr Elspeth Wise

Elspeth WiseDr Elspeth Wise is an Arthritis Research UK education fellow and part-time GP.

What does your work involve?

I work part-time as an Arthritis Research UK educational fellow looking into the musculoskeletal education received by trainee general practice registrars. In addition, I work as a GP in a surgery in Belmont, Durham, for 2 days a week.

How long has Arthritis Research UK been funding you?

I've completed 2 years of the 4-year part-time fellowship.

What's the most important thing you've found out in the past 12 months?

I now realise that many GP registrars have difficulty prioritising what they need to learn about musculoskeletal disorders. Many registrars have, during their training, had their musculoskeletal teaching from hospital consultants, and the range of conditions seen in hospital is very different to those seen in primary care. For example, hospital consultants focus on the management of inflammatory joint diseases whereas in general practice we mainly see patients with soft-tissue disorders, injuries and non-inflammatory joint disease. Registrars, therefore, have to learn more about conditions that they'll have seen very little of but which make up the day-to-day work of a GP. Registrars also have a lot to learn in their 12 months' general practice job and musculoskeletal problems are only one area of many that they need to cover, so I think it's important that we help them prioritise what they need to know.

What do you hope or expect to achieve as a result of your Arthritis Research UK funding?

I'm anticipating that publishing the results from my study will help raise the profile of musculoskeletal disorders in primary care and will hopefully stimulate GPs to take a greater interest in this area. During the next year I'll be working at creating an educational package for GP registrars, looking at one specific area of musculoskeletal medicine. The Arthritis Research UK primary care working group is also going to be updating the Arthritis Research UK Learning Guide for GPs, which I hope will help those GPs who want to learn more. I'm personally learning a great deal about musculoskeletal disorders and gaining experience in research techniques, both of which I hope will help me in my future career.

What's your greatest research achievement?

Having only completed 2 years of my project, I think it's a bit too early to say.

What do you do in a typical day?

On my research days I'm based in the rheumatology department of the Freeman Hospital, Newcastle. I generally spend the first half-hour of my day dealing with my emails and recently have been putting the data from the interviews which I performed with GP trainers into a spreadsheet. I have regular meetings with my supervisors, Dr David Walker and Professor Tim van Zwanenberg, who've both been very helpful and supportive. On general practice days I take surgeries and have home visits. I see a number of patients with musculoskeletal problems as they are increasingly aware of my special interest in this subject.

Why did you choose to do this work?

Having worked in both A+E and rheumatology departments before beginning my general practice training, I found musculoskeletal problems interesting and felt confident that I'd be able to treat them. I very quickly realised that what I was seeing in primary care was very different from what I'd seen in hospital and that my confidence had been misplaced. The general practice textbooks that we used weren't particularly helpful and one of the partners in my first training practice told me about simple measures, such as exercises for plantar fasciitis, that weren't covered in these texts. It made me realise how poorly prepared I was to manage musculoskeletal disorders and, although there appeared to be information available that would help, I wasn't sure how and where to access it. I heard that Dr David Coady at the Freeman was creating a research project looking at primary care education and was asked if I'd be interested in taking part in this. As the project was specifically looking at GP registrars' education, it matched my concern about how poorly prepared I was despite having had relevant jobs, so it was ideal.

Do you ever think how your work can help people with arthritis?

In my general practice clinics and the special interest clinics, I'm regularly amazed at how very simple measures/treatments can make such a difference to people's wellbeing. I hope that my project will raise the profile of musculoskeletal disorders in primary care and enable GPs to learn about such treatments, and that enhancing GPs education will improve patients' outcomes.

What would you do if you weren't a GP/researcher?

I'd quite like to be a florist.

About Elspeth

I enjoy travelling and recently have been on a number of city breaks. Several of these have been to Italy, where I've been able to try and use the Italian that I've been learning. I'm also going to Peru in April of this year with a group of friends. This will be my first visit to South America so I'm quite excited. I sing alto in a local choral society, where we're currently learning Mozart's Requiem. Recently I've begun to support the Newcastle Falcons rugby team and have attended quite a few of their home matches. The rules of the game are still something of a mystery to me but the atmosphere at the matches is really enjoyable.

This article first appeared in Arthritis Today Spring 2006, issue 132.

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Arthritis Research UK fund research into the cause, treatment and cure of arthritis. You can support Arthritis Research UK by volunteering, donating or visiting our shops.