In the modern world, family doctors provide the majority of care for people of all backgrounds. Often called general practitioners or primary care physicians, family doctors create relationships with and serve entire families. This type of practice is a medical specialty devoted to comprehensive health care and is based on knowledge of the patient and his or her family history. A family practice physician performs many duties for patients of all ages, such as providing continuing healthcare for acute and chronic illnesses as well as emphasizing disease prevention.
Taking care of the physical, emotional and mental health of patients and their families is the main goal of family practice physicians. These doctors typically are trained in all areas of medicine and have the ability to diagnose and treat a wide variety of symptoms and problems. They also provide preventative care, which includes routine checkups, immunizations, screening tests, health risk assessments and suggestions on how to make healthy lifestyle choices. Some of these doctors even deliver babies. When a family practice physician identifies a major health issue, he or she usually refers his patient to a specialist.
The typical educational background and training for a family practice physician includes an undergraduate degree and M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree, as well as completing a three-year family medicine residence. This three-year program provides real-world experience, such as hands-on training in an office, hospital or home environment. It also might include rotations and training in internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, geriatrics and obstetrics-gynecology. Family practice physicians are often eligible for board certifications and usually go through re-certification programs more than any other medical specialty. Most doctors of this type continue to educate themselves to learn the current trends in treatment and technologies as well as the latest medical breakthroughs.
Some family practice physicians pursue fellowships in a wide variety of areas, such as sports medicine, adolescent medicine, geriatric medicine, sleep medicine and hospice care. There are many career options for a family practice physician, including education, emergency or urgent care medicine, international medicine, public health and inpatient medicine. Most family doctors usually practice in small-group private practices, solo or in hospital practices. They often have long workdays, filled with a stream of incoming patients and insurance company paperwork.
When searching for a new family practice physician, a potential patient should look for a doctor who works with his or her insurance coverage and with whom he or she feels comfortable. The patient-doctor relationship can be very important, and it’s imperative for a person to find a trusted doctor. Other factors to consider are the doctor’s current patient workload, the hospital with which the doctor is associated and the doctor’s overall philosophy.