Family Practice Physician Career Profile

Family practice physicians are the local doctors in every town. They're also the people who are in the front line of every medical issue in their vicinity. Family doctors, also known as general practitioners or GPs, operate generalist medical practices. That's an anything but simple proposition; in terms of the number of medical situations the average area serviced by a GP can produce. GPs usually operate treating these non-specialist areas of general health:

  • Basic health issues like colds, flu, etc.
  • Minor injuries
  • Infections
  • General examinations
  • Pediatric medicine
  • Some  non surgical medical procedures depending on qualifications
  • Geriatric health
  • Some psychiatric treatment, like prescribing anti depressants

The Work Environment

 Many family doctors work is ongoing, case management work involving repeat consultations. This is often important monitoring work, keeping track of the health of a person with a complex condition or injury requiring close attention because of the possible risks related to it. The degree of difficulty in medical case management can be quite high. Care, medication and consultation require extensive medical knowledge and a thorough practical approach to the issues. A person with a chronic condition may be treated by medication and regularly see a GP, but the case is serious, and the GP must be careful to ensure correct practices are followed in oversight and treatment.

GPs also work in conjunction with specialists. The GP will refer a patient to a specialist, who will diagnose and report back to the GP regarding necessary treatment and medication. This can be a potentially complex case requiring institution of a whole management program. The GP will do the routine management, with reference to the specialist at intervals.

Family doctors are also directly connected with community health. They act as the primary enforcers of many health regulations and policies. As local practitioners, they are often the first to see incidents of major medical significance like contagious diseases, TB, or other dangerous medical problems. By law, they're required to report incidents of this type and take appropriate action.

The Career Outlook

Career progression in this environment is really a matter of developing the practice. Family medical practices are usually operated either by a single doctor or a partnership of doctors. Partnerships with several doctors are often a good hedge against practice overheads like insurance, rental of premises, and other costs. They're also a good way of splitting the often very heavy workload.

A good local practice can get progressively more business, and expand, offering more services. Many GPs also gain additional qualifications and licenses, allowing a wider range of services. Some family practices may evolve into the equivalent of local community clinics, offering additional specialist services through taking on specialists as part of their business model. The same business advantages apply for the larger practice, creating a reduced outlay for the doctors and specialists. 

The intermix of GPs and specialists may lead to extremely efficient provision of services, and considerably less dislocation for the patients, allowing them to receive the services in an easily scheduled arrangement.  This form of practice is often highly successful, and works to the advantage of the community, patients and practitioners.