Also known as a general practitioner, a family doctor, or a GP, a general medicine doctor is a medical professional who is trained in a wide range of healthcare practices and procedures, and has the ability to provide competent medical care to a wide range of people. The general medicine doctor does not specialize in one particular type of medicine, but possesses enough knowledge of various health issues and treatments to assess the basic needs of a patient and provide effective care in many situations. Typically, this type of physician will be able to ascertain if a given patient requires care for a specific condition from a specialist, and can make arrangements to refer that patient for more specialized treatments.
The focus of a general medicine doctor is to provide basic health care to patients. This includes conducting physical examinations on a regular basis, treating minor illnesses, and providing care in the event of common injuries. Doctors of this type will often utilize a number of different treatment techniques to help alleviate pain and promote healing, including providing prescriptions for medication, assisting patients in designing workable diets and exercise plans, and in general providing the tools necessary to help patients live a more equitable quality of life during convalescence or even in the management of a long-term disease such a diabetes.
Since a general medicine doctor does not specialize in one particular field of medicine, a healthcare professional of this type will be familiar with a wide range of symptoms and treatments for many different health issues. Depending on the nature and severity of the issue, the general medicine doctor may be able to successfully administer treatment without calling in a specialist. At other times, a competent GP will recognize when a health issue requires the attention of more specialized care and will refer the patient to someone who does focus on health issues of that type.
The level of training required to become a general medicine doctor varies somewhat from one country to the next. In many nations, completion of general coursework at an accredited college or university is necessary for acceptance into a medical school. The amount of time required to obtain a degree and eventually be allowed to practice medicine will also vary, although the norm in a number of countries is a total of eight years of both formal training in the medical field combined with time spent in residency with an approved medical institution such as a hospital. A general medicine doctor may choose to start a private practice or join a medical group that includes a combination of specialists and GPs, depending on his or her personal career goals.