Family Physician Job Description
Family physicians treat injuries and illnesses that occur in everyday life. Broken bones, sinus infections, colds, and other common viruses are examples of ailments that are treated by a family physician. When patients have a more serious condition, family physicians refer them to a specialist.
When a patient comes to see a family physician, the physician collects information by interviewing the patient and performing some diagnostic tests to determine the problem. Tests can be as simple as looking inside a patient’s throat or ears, or they may involve the use of imaging equipment like x-rays.
When the tests are completed, physicians interpret the results, make their diagnosis, and prescribe a treatment. When medication is required for treatment, family physicians write prescriptions that their patients can take to a pharmacy.
Unlike most other doctors, family physicians work with their patients over a long period of time. It’s common for patients to see the same physician for many years. For some people, this can be very rewarding.
Work Environment and Schedule
Most family physicians work in a doctor’s office. While many physicians operate their own practices, it’s becoming increasingly common for physicians to join a group practice.
Joining a group practice has many benefits for family physicians. They are able to get more time off, work less overtime, and removes the pressure of starting their own business. Additionally, starting out in a group practice can help build up a large patient base faster than if they were out on their own.
Most physician offices are open during regular business hours between Monday and Friday, but some offices remain open until late in the evening to accommodate their patients’ needs.
Because people can have medical questions at any time of day or night, family physicians are often on call. In group practices, the on call schedule normally rotates between physicians so that nobody has to be on call all the time. When it’s your turn in the rotation, working nights and weekends is required.
Physicians with solo practices are normally on call at all times. This can make it difficult to take a vacation or spend a quiet evening with the family.
How to Become a Family Physician
If you want to pursue a career as a family physician, you will have to complete some demanding education and training requirements.
First, you will need to get a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Physicians come from many different academic backgrounds, but most major in a scientific field. Regardless of major, you will need a strong background in mathematics, biology, and chemistry to get into medical school.
Getting into a medical school can be difficult, because of the high level of competition. To apply, you will need to submit letters of recommendation, academic transcripts, and your scores from the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). Most undergraduates take the MCAT during their junior or senior year of their undergraduate program.
Medical school lasts for four years. The first two years are spent in classrooms and lab settings, and include courses in ethics, pharmacology, biochemistry, anatomy, and psychology. The second two years are spent working under the supervision of an experienced physician.
After completing medical school, graduates must enter a three year residency program. Residency programs take place in a hospital or doctor’s office, and provide the on the job training that physicians need to practice.
In all states, physicians must be licensed. Those with an M.D. have to pass the Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), and those with a D.O. have to take the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA).
To learn more about licensing requirements, check with your state’s medical board. The information can normally be found on their website.
There are currently 691,000 family physicians in the United States, with 30,510 new family physician job openings created each year.
Family Physician jobs are not expected to see much growth beyond their current levels in the next decade.
Family Physician Salaries
Family Physician salaries can vary depending on your experience, the location, company, industry, and benefits provided. Nationwide, most family physicians make between $127,000 – $166,400+ per year, or $61.07 – $80+ per hour.