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General PractitionerAlternative titles

Rata Hauora

This job is sometimes referred to as:

Doctor (General Practitioner)

General practitioners diagnose and treat the health problems of individuals and families in the community. They are also involved in screening at-risk groups for diseases such as cervical cancer and diabetes.

Contact us

Call us on 0800 222 733


Pay varies for general practitioners and for registrars (those in training), depending on hours, location and the number of patients they see.

  • Registrars working for a district health board (DHB) usually earn between $70,000 and $175,000 a year.
  • Qualified general practitioners working for a DHB usually earn between $113,000 and $212,000.

Sources: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists (ASMS), '2013 to 2016 National DHB Collective Agreement (MECA)'; Resident Doctors' Association, '2012 to 2013 DHB Collective Agreement'; and Ian Powell, executive director, ASMS.

(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)

What you will do

General practitioners may do some or all of the following:

  • consult with and examine patients and diagnose their problems
  • treat individuals and families over extended periods
  • advise on health care and prevention of illness
  • perform minor surgery
  • prescribe and administer medicines
  • keep medical records
  • refer patients to other health services when necessary
  • liaise with ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) over accident and injury claims
  • train and supervise doctors working towards their GP exams.

Skills and knowledge

General practitioners need to have:

  • excellent communication and people skills 
  • knowledge of anatomy and how the human body works
  • knowledge of different diseases, illnesses and injuries
  • knowledge of medicines and treatments, and the effect these have on patients
  • diagnostic skills
  • up-to-date knowledge of new research, treatments and practices
  • knowledge of medical ethics and law.

General practitioners who run their own practice may also need to have small business knowledge and skills.

Working conditions

General practitioners:

  • may work long and irregular hours and be on call. They may also work part time
  • work in clinics and health centres
  • often come into contact with diseases and bodily fluids
  • may travel to other towns or countries for conferences. Rural general practitioners and those who make house calls travel locally.

What's the job really like?

Ron Janes - General Practitioner

Ron Janes

Originally from Canada, Ron Janes came to New Zealand 20 years ago and wanted to continue practising both hospital emergency work and patient management. "So I chose a place where I could do all of that. It's exciting, and that's the kind of practice I enjoy."

Using all your medical skills in rural practice

Ron works part time at a medical practice on the ground floor of Wairoa Hospital, and part time as a rural hospital doctor.

"Medical practice can get quite dramatic in a small rural town. I’ve seen everything at the hospital: gunshot wounds, heart attacks and amputations. I've also had parents carrying children through the doors with meningitis. You really do get to use all your skills."

Challenging work if not enough doctors

Ron spends one weekend in five on call, and although the workload is usually manageable, it can become stressful. "There have been challenging times when doctors have left the area and the workload has risen, but as more students are being trained in rural areas it should be less of a problem to attract doctors in the future."

And of course, there are those outdoor charms. "There are excellent beaches, fishing and surfing here!"

Kiriana Bird describes how she became a general practitioner with a Māori health provider in Hastings - 1.42 mins. (Video courtesy of Kia Ora Hauora)

Tēnā koutou katoa. Welcome to Kia Ora Hauora.

Ko Maungatautari te maunga,
Ko Ohau te awa,
Ko Tainui te waka,
Ko Tukorehe te marae,
Ko Ngāti Tukorehe te hapū,
Ko Ngāti Raukawa me Ngāti Porou ngā iwi,
Ko Kiriana Bird tōku ingoa.

I'm a general practitioner at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga, which is a Māori health provider in Hastings. Our catchment area is Flaxmere, Raureka, Camberley.

A general practitioner is a doctor who specialises in family medicine. In GP land you’ve got to know a little bit about every single thing. So someone might come in to you about an eye problem, so you’ve got to know all about the eye and what you’re going to do with this patient. Or someone might come in and say, 'Oh, my toe’s sore,' and you’ve got to think, ‘Oh, okay, what are all the things about the toe?’

So it crosses all systems in the body, from the brain, to the heart, the lungs, the eyes, the ears, the mouth – everything.

I went to St Joseph’s Māori Girls' College, the University of Auckland to do my medicine. Like the mahi itself wasn’t hard, but the commitment is hard, I think that was the main thing. If you had, if you could stick at it, going to lectures every day, getting your assignments in and doing all that, it wasn’t actually the... It wasn’t difficult, but it was just keeping at it.

So if you're interested in being a Māori doctor, grab one of your teachers, grab one of your careers advisers, have a kōrero to them and see if they can help you. And if they can't, come down to Hastings by me and have a kōrero with me.

Together with Kia Ora Hauora, let’s see Māori living careers in health.

Kia Ora Hauora.


Trainee general practitioners usually earn
per year
Experienced general practitioners usually earn
per year
Source: Association of Salaried Medical Specialists and Resident Doctors' Association.
Tessa Jones looks through an instrument at a patient's eye

Tessa Jones examining a patient's eye

Updated 17 Nov 2014