Family medicine is a discipline only recognized by this name in the USA, Canada and India. In other parts of the world and especially in Europe, it is known as general practice.
Role of a family doctor
In general, family doctors may start their day at their office seeing patients. They may treat people with conditions ranging from minor, such as the flu, to serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.
Family practice doctors take medical histories, perform physical exams, and order diagnostic tests. They also spend part of their time reviewing labs, x-rays and other tests to make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.
In some instances, a family practice doctor is the first medical professional a person sees when they have symptoms. One important responsibility of a family practice doc is to consult with other specialists when needed. For example, if a patient comes in with signs of cancer, a family practice doctor may coordinate care with an oncologist. In addition to seeing patients in their office, family practice doctors also usually spend part of their day seeing their patients who are hospitalized.
One cool aspect of being a family practice doctor is you may see patients even when they are not ill. Part of your role is to help people prevent illness and stay healthy. For instance, family practice doctors often recommend regular checkups and routine health screenings to spot minor issues before they become serious. Doctors also spend time teaching patients about healthy lifestyle choices, disease prevention and provide information for people to take control of their health.
Family practice doctors are either in private practice or work as part of a group practice. Salaries for family practice doctors vary depending on what part of the country they live in and how much experience they have. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, family practice doctors earn about $195,000 a year.
One good thing about choosing family practice is experts predict there will be a lot of opportunities in the future. As medicine changes, more specialties emerge. Less med school grads are going into family practice, which means there is a shortage of doctors in this specialty.
If you like the idea of having a longstanding relationship with patients, treating various conditions and working with a diverse patient population, becoming a family practice doctor may be the perfect fit!