GP Wim Vreugdenhil: ‘General practitioners are an important pillar in the healthcare system’

Wim Vreugdenhil
Genealogiecode: N X as.3
Door: Daphne Doemges-Engelen
Foto: Wim Vreugdenhil

After having worked as a temporary GP for several years, 35-year-old doctor Wim Vreugdenhil took over a GP’s office April 2020. He talks about his vision regarding general practitioners and the work-life balance. “General practitioners are an important pillar in the healthcare system; and young GP’s have to take the responsibility.”

More profit
In 2015 Wim graduated as a GP. After a few years working as a temporary GP he thought: ‘I’m not gonna do this for 40 years’. “GP’s have an essential role when it comes to policies around referrals and bills,” he says. “As a general practitioner you’re a very important part in the Dutch healthcare system. Young GP’s need to take that responsibility and not just keep working as temporary GP’s.” Vreugdenhil understands that temporary GP’s have a lot of freedom, but he sees it as the easy way out. “Often the reasoning is that as a temporary GP you make almost the same profit as general practitioners,” he states, “but it’ll keep the troubles and responsibilities attach to being a general practitioners away. But it doesn’t have to be like that: I earn considerably more now than when I still worked as a temporary GP.”

Financial freedom
Vreugdenhil looks forward to build his life around the GP’s office he took over in the small village of Maasland in the west of the country. “Together with my family I live relatively close-by in the village of De Lier, and for two years had already been working at the office for three days a week as a temporary GP. Now that I’ve taken over it feels like I can truly build our life in this beautiful area, and do the work the way I want to. Of course it does mean that I’ve got less freedom, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. My view on the future is that I can now start delegating certain tasks and – because of that – can build financial freedom.”

New role
He took over an existing GP’s office with 3500 patients from a married GP-couple. As a GP you work on a very accessible basis. The one former GP retired, and the other, his wife, now works as a temporary GP in Vreugdenhils GP’s office. “I work fulltime, and she works two days a week, which is a great partnership. She completely let go of the proprietorship, allowing me to grow into my new role. At the same time she’s a very important support for the elderly patients. It wasn’t just by doing nothing that they managed to run this practice for 35 years. In those many years they’ve become an important pillar of the village community. “What I find very important is that you have fun while doing your work, because if you’re happy being a GP you can help your patients best.”

“I took on a financial advisor for the financial part of the take-over who specializes in supporting GP’s offices.”

“It’s a true village GP’s office.
And that appeals to me because
you can build an real relationship with your patients.”

Financial advice|
According to Vreugdenhil, being an entrepreneur is an exciting part of being a general practitioner. “It’s a very fun step to take, even though it can be a bit scary. But that’s all part of personal development. The financial side of the take-over was very interesting as well. I had taken on a financial advisor who looked over my shoulder at the financial books. The accounting firm he works for is specialized in supporting GP’s offices. They helped me apply for a business loan for certain investments I wanted to make.”

Different information system
After the take-over he changed several things. “I took on an extra assistant as well as two support nurses, once of them specialized in diabetes care, the other is building the surrounding support-system for the GGZ (mental healthcare). I also changed the computer system as well as the GP information system. Some changes might seem small, but have a big effect. One of those changes was that I re-recorded the message people hear when they call the GP’s office. The information provision and accessibility is better now, and people have a positive experience with it. The new assistant prefers to drink cappuccino so we got a new coffee machine that’s capable of making that. It doesn’t seem important, but if everyone gets more pleasure in working from this, then it has a serious impact on the ambiance in the entire office.”

As starting general practitioner Vreugdenhil hopes to have everything on track in the next five years. “I’m working towards a good balance between work and my private life. Of course GP’s like me are busy, but who isn’t nowadays? I don’t think GP’s are busier than people in other branches of healthcare work. When you compare it to the pressure of administrative work in a hospital, then we’re not that busy at all. And in the past my predecessor also had to attent births. I may start early, but I’m always back home in time for dinner.”