The Scoop on Family and General Practice

Pretty much everyone has been to "the Doctor" and most of the time this is what they were talking about.

"The Doctor" is usually in Family or General Practice where they'll see (you guessed it) your whole family and treat pretty much everything on one level or another. Most of the time the Family "Doctor" is the person who refers someone to a specialist, the one who (if anyone still does this) makes house calls, and the one who has best chance of setting their own hours. Most Family Practitioners work in their won practice or in with a small group of Family Practitioners. Sometimes you might end up working more than 60 hours a week, but a lot of times this is part of the call of duty that you take on when you accept the Hippocratic Oath.

What in the World Does a Family or General Practitioner Do?

Just like all Doctors a Family or General Practicing M.D. diagnoses and treats conditions and diseases of their patients. Typically, the "Doctor" treats things like colds, sinus and respiratory infections, broken bones and other simpler ailments that don't necessarily require you to go to a specialist.

A Family Practitioner works for themselves in their own office with a staff that they hired and are keeping on their payroll, or they work as part of a larger practice where they are but one of "the Doctors." The work requires a great deal of hands-on dealing with your patients (checking heart rate, using a stethoscope, checking a patients reflexes, checking wounds or injuries, etc.) and this also requires a steady hand, especially on a patient who might be in pain. Depending on the office or clinic that you work in if you practicing as a Family or General Practitioner you will find yourself keeping a large client base and gaining clients as "walk ins" because they view this profession as, once again, "The Doctor".

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Schooling is a major part of becoming a Doctor and it begins right after High School. Most people who are accepted to Medical School have a Bachelor's Degree (typically in a science) and some even have even more advanced degrees. There are 146 Medical Schools in the U.S. so even though entry to Medical School is competitive, there seems to be enough Medical Schools to go around.

Once in Medical School you are beginning the first 4 years of a 7-12 year journey (depending on your specialty.) Medical School is completed as a 4-year program after which you are either an M.D. or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.) After Medical School most Doctors are then required to complete 3-7 years of internships and apprenticeships. These are paid positions (they don't pay as much as more experienced Doctors typically) but they are necessary for you to learn your specialization.

Once you have exited Medical School you will have to get a license to practice medicine from the State Medical Board. It requires continuing education to renew and when you get in Family or General Practice your internship or apprenticeship will be a stepping stone to getting your license in your specialty.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

A lot of General Family Doctors go into business for themselves and open a private practice. This is labor intensive because you must hire a staff to work alongside you and a clerical staff to book appointments, handle payments, etc. This is, however, the best chance for you to own your own business and set your own hours.

Sometimes you may want to join a larger practice where you are salaried or you are a partner in the business. This is similar to owning your own practice, but typically not as stressful as you do not shoulder ALL the responsibility. Other Family Practitioners might go to work at a health clinic, nursing home, or a hospital as "The Doctor" or "The Family Doctor".

If you work in this area you will have to keep a large client base and you will need to be as sociable as possible so that people will want to refer you to their friends and family. You will also need to be able to work with other Doctors in your area so you will know who to refer your patients to when they present you with problems you can't fix.

Jobs in this area are expected to grow as the population grows (more families, more family doctors) and since there were only 12.3% of Doctors in this specialty in 2005 the numbers can only grow as the population grows too.

Advancing in your career typically means becoming researcher or teacher at a Medical College which may be something you do on the side and may become your career as you get farther and farther removed from Family Practice.

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Family and General Practitioners Overview

Family and General Practitioner Salary:$157,250
Job Prospects:A+
Education after high school:11 years
# Employed in US:106,210
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+ +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being an Family or General Practitioner

  • You have the chance to own your own business
  • Job growth in this area is expected to rise with the population
  • You can work at a health clinic, hospital or in a private office
  • You have the chance to have families as friends and clients (perhaps treating the child then treating their children later in your career.)

The Cons of being an Family or General Practitioner

  • There are 8 years of schooling to be done after High School
  • You must add onto that number at least 3 more years of internships
  • You must build your own client base if you work in a Family Practice