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Family Physician


Description

What would we do without doctors? Runny noses, rashes and chicken pox, although these examples are not medical emergencies, the first thing most people do when something is wrong with their health is rush out to their family physician. Family physicians are the first medical professionals whom patients consult. The hallmark of the work of a family physician is prolonged contact with patients, allowing them to gather information on each patient and build a relationship of trust with the patient. Family physicians also have extra training in pediatrics and obstetrics, and are qualified to care for pregnant women, deliver babies and treat infants.

Family physicians play an important role in our everyday lives. They attempt to make sick people healthy by diagnosing and treating disorders and suggesting preventative care to patients. They make diagnoses by combining physical examinations with the information in patients medical histories and by ordering special diagnostic tests, such as blood tests. They recommend treatments, including medicines, creams, diet changes, exercise, surgery, rehabilitation or other advice.

They perform a wide variety of tasks from delivering babies to prescribing medicine to people. They may also be found working as specialists, public health officers, occupational health officers, research scientists, teachers, professors, and administrators. Most working days are different as each patient that comes to see them will have a different problem. Many family physicians like that aspect of their jobs, seeing as no two days are the same. One patient might need blood work done, another is pregnant while another patient might need some stitches in their forehead.

Family physicians must be quick thinkers and problem-solvers in order to diagnose problems. When diagnosing and treating patients, it is common for physicians to communicate with nurses, medical lab technologists, physiotherapists and pharmacists. They may often consult medical books or refer patients to specialists if the condition is too serious and needs further knowledge. For example, if a patient has terrible acne scars on his or her face, the physician may recommend that the patient see a dermatologist.

Family physicians' lives are filled with caring for people and continuously learning more about the human body. They should be primarily concerned with helping patients and not the money side of the career. True doctors get their satisfaction from helping people stay healthy. Every day in communities around the country, family physicians work in neighborhood clinics, hospitals, offices, and schools to care for people and families in need.
 
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  Average Earnings  
Lowest 10% of Earners:
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Median Salary:
$150,267
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Family physicians are interested in helping people, first and foremost. They have the intellectual ability required to successfully complete the required academic training and to pursue a course of lifelong learning, and the stamina required to work long hours. They have excellent communication skills and can get along with people well and instill confidence. They will need emotional strength and maturity, and passion, empathy and energy.

Family physicians should enjoy finding solutions to problems, dealing with people, and directing the work of others. They must also be proficient in medicine - they must have and apply the knowledge to diagnose illnesses. Also, ethics is a strong point for these types of people because they have to do what is right for their patients with their best interests in mind.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Examine patients, order laboratory tests, x-rays and other diagnostic procedures and consult with other medical practitioners to evaluate patients' health
  • Prescribe and administer appropriate medications and treatments, which may involve giving simple advice and coordinating more complex treatment or rehabilitation programs
  • Perform and assist in routine surgery
  • Inoculate and vaccinate patients
  • Deliver babies and provide pre-natal and post-natal care
  • Advise patients on health care
  • Report births, deaths and contagious diseases to governmental authorities
  • Counsel patients on diet, hygiene and preventative health care and discuss treatment methods
  • Coordinate their work with nurses, social workers, rehabilitation therapists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health care providers
  • Teach medical students and other health professionals
  • Family physicians' working conditions depend on the type of position. Yet most physicians work long days, about 60 to 70 hours per week. They may work rotating shifts or be on call. When on call, they can be called into the hospital at any time, day or night. Some also work evenings and weekends to accommodate patient's schedules. In a typical day, most family physicians see a succession of patients, and may spend a considerable amount of time driving to hospitals, clinics and/or patients' homes. This occupation can be both emotionally demanding and emotionally rewarding.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most family physicians work in private practice either alone or with other doctors. Some are employed by regional health authorities. Those who do not choose private or group practice may be employed in medical research, public health, occupational medicine, health administration, overseas service, or military service.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Family physicians can go back to school to become a specialist or surgeon. Some may decide to go into teaching or social work. Others will move into more managerial roles or administrative positions. Family physicians can also become consultants to insurance companies or teachers in medical schools.
 

  Educational Paths  
Becoming a family physician requires a long educational road, so be prepared for a lifelong learning experience. Most start with a Bachelor of Science degree, however some Bachelor of Arts graduates may be accepted into medical school programs. While in high school, take math and science classes. Also, not all medical schools require a bachelor's degree and with good marks, some students can get accepted after two years of undergraduate study. Check with the school for their requirements before applying.

The next step is medical school, which usually takes about four years. Graduation from an approved medical school will result in the title Medical Doctor (MD). Two to three years of family medicine residency training are required after graduation from medical school. Completion of the qualifying licensing examinations is required to practice medicine. Licensure by the regional licensing authority is required.

Finally, before entering medical school, volunteer in a hospital, nursing home or community center. This will give you valuable experience in dealing with people who need help and what it is like to work as a doctor.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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