Family Medicine - How to Become a Family Medicine Physician

Family Medicine

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Family Medicine Job Description

 

Medical doctors who specialize in family medicine serve patients of all ages, providing comprehensive care for all sorts of conditions.

A family physician is usually the first choice when someone has a non-emergency health concern. Family physicians focus their practice on the “whole patient” and provide on-going care over long periods of time. This makes family physicians uniquely qualified to provide preventive care and manage chronic and complex conditions. They also perform early screenings for signs of potentially serious conditions, such as cancer or heart disease.

Many patients consider their family physician “my doctor,” developing long-standing relationships with the physician. The family doctor comes to know the patient well over time, learning a great deal about the patient’s health history and medical needs. Key elements of family medicine are helping in the prevention of health problems and the reduction of health risks.

In many areas, especially rural settings, a local family physician may follow an individual patient from infancy through adulthood. Other family members may all be treated by the same doctor, thus giving the physician access to medical histories going back a generation or more. This gives the family physician a unique insight into an individual’s health risks and the ability to better help patients stay healthy.

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Responsibilities

 

Family practice physicians (also known as primary care physicians) are often the first point of contact for patients. They're tasked with completing a the investigation and treatment of individual patients with a wide array of ailments and conditions. In the event of more serious occurrences they differ to more specialized physicians.

Some of the common responsibilities of a family physician include:

  • Treating a wide range of medical issues.

  • Coordinating care with other medical professionals.

  • Caring for the whole patient, including mental and emotional concerns.

  • Building long-term relationships with their patients.

  • Providing information and techniques to help patients control their own health choices.

  • Focusing on illness prevention as well as treatment of it.

Family practice doctors often manage other health care professionals like nurses and medical assistants in addition to their regular duties.

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Skills

 

The family physician is often the first point of contact for many people entering the health care system. This requires the physician to quickly assess physical data and communicate with patients effectively to gather the information needed to make an accurate diagnosis.

 

Communication

Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.

Trustworthiness

Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 

Perceptiveness

Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.

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Working Conditions

 

A family practice medical office is run like a small business, with front office staff who are often trained medical assistants, and a billing manager. The office-based practice is the common business model, although training in the family practice specialty prepares physicians to work in non-traditional locales, including wilderness, rural and international situations.

Family physicians may locate their practice in any of the following common locations:

  • Medical offices

  • Hospitals, especially rural care facilities

  • Nursing homes

  • Community health centers

  • Urgent care centers

  • Emergency departments

  • Schools

Those in family practice report a high level of professional satisfaction, ease in balancing career and home and a comfortable lifestyle. The flexibility of a family practice gives the physician the authority to arrange work hours, work schedules and provisions for family time. A family practices gives a physician a wide range of lifestyle options. The median numbers of hours a family physician works is 51, according to Medical Economics magazine.

The family physician is often the first one in a position to learn about the appearance of new symptoms and the first to diagnose an emerging condition. Family physicians see patients in different environments, including homes, clinics and hospitals in areas that are traditionally under served by other medical providers.

The U.S. government estimates that a physician shortage translates into an estimated 20 percent of people in the U.S. have inadequate access or no access to primary care. These are generally people in rural areas and regions of socioeconomic deprivation. Family physicians provide the care that fills this gap. It is estimated that fully 25 percent of family physicians extend their practices into rural areas. Uninsured patients are often part of the family physicians’ patient pool, especially children and families receiving public assistance.

 


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How to Become a Family Medicine Physician:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

Aspiring family physicians must first complete a bachelor's degree program in order to continue on to medical school. Traditionally, premed programs offered by nearly all major universities, but are not necessarily required to enter medical school. Programs that emphasize science, such as biology, physics, or physiology, may also be sufficient as medical school qualifications. However, those that are certain they want to enter this, or any other, medical profession should pursue a premed program.

 

The preparation timeline below offers an example premed curriculum: 

 

Grade Level

Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • Health Care Systems

  • Biology I & Lab

  • Biology II & Lab

  • Calculus I

  • Chemistry I & Lab

  • Chemistry II & Lab

  • English I

  • Psychology 

  • Humanities Requirements

  • Electives

Sophomore Year

  • Public Health

  • Anatomy & Physiology I & Lab

  • Anatomy & Physiology II & Lab

  • Statistics

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab

  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab

  • Basic Skills for Healthcare

  • Nutrition

  • Humanities Requirements

  • Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Healthcare Communication

  • Healthcare Professional Writing

  • Genetics & Microbiology I & Lab

  • Physics I & Lab

  • Physics II & Lab

  • Problems in Healthcare

  • Healthcare Research

  • Biochemistry I & Lab

  • Humanities Requirements

  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Health in the US

  • Health Education and Planning

  • Healthcare Management

  • Health Policy

  • Capstone

  • Remaining Requirements

  • Remaining Electives

 

2. Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

 

To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

 

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

 

Section/Category

 Section Breakdown

Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry

Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions

  • 95 minutes

  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology

Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills

  • 53 multiple-choice questions

  • 90 minutes

  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

 

You can find study materials, MCAT registration, and your test scores on the AAMC website here.

 

3. Earn a Medical Degree (4 Years)

 

A list of accredited medical education programs is available through the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). For more information and advice on successfully getting into medical school, you can check with the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Medical school consists of four years of studying the basics in science and participating in clinical “rotations.” These are hands-on clinical experiences in real health care settings. In most med schools, the first two years are taken up with classroom studies before students are assigned to do rotations. The current trend, however, finds a number of medical schools exposing students to early clinical experiences that continue throughout the four-year program.

Most medical schools base their curriculum on a system-based approach that focuses on one physiological system at a time, such as the respiratory system or the nervous system. Still others may use a case-based curriculum that teaches about the human body’s normal functioning and disease processes by assigning students to following individual patient cases from start to finish. Still other med schools use a combination of these approaches to educate their students.

The most common lines of coursework among medical schools consist of the following subjects:

  • Anatomy

  • Biochemistry

  • Ethics

  • Pharmacology

  • Physiology

  • Psychology

During the last two years of schooling, students are required to obtain hands-on experience at hospitals and clinics, learning to diagnose and treat patients while working under the supervision of licensed physicians.

Upon completion of four years of med school, a student is awarded a medical degree, or M.D. Another popular trend is for schools to offer combination degree programs, such as MD/MPH, MD/PHD or MD/JD. The AAMC’s website on Medical School Admission Requirements offers more information on this option.

 

The preparation timeline below provides an example medical school curriculum:

 

Year

Example Courses

Year 1

 

  • Cells and Tissues

  • Molecular Foundations of Medicine

  • Applied Biochemistry 

  • Genetics

  • Disease Mechanisms & Development

  • Cardiac Life Support

  • The Nervous System

  • Immunology

  • Gross Anatomy of Head & Neck

  • Microbiology

  • Pulmonary System

  • Cardiovascular System

  • Microbiology

Year 2

  • Renal/Genitourinary System

  • Gastrointestinal System

  • Skin/Endocrine Systems

  • Reproduction & Women's Health

  • Microbiology

  • Behavior & the Brain

  • Hematology

  • Systemic Diseases

  • Microbiology

  • Clinical Clerkship

Year 3, 4, 5

 

  • Internal Medicine

  • Pediatrics

  • Surgery

  • Obstetrics & Gynecology

  • Family Medicine

  • Psychiatry

  • Neurology

  • Critical Care

  • Ambulatory Med

  • Research, Reflections and Advances in Patient Care

 

4. Pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)

 

Every state requires physicians to pass a national, standardized exam. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so contact your state's medical board for specific requirements.

For an aspiring family medicine physician, the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is required. The USMLE is sponsored by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and the Federation of State Medical Boards of the United States (FSMB). Aspiring physicians can find sample questions, tutorials, and other study materials on the USMLE website. This exam has a limit of 6 attempts, and they may not be retaken to improve scores.

 

5. Complete a Residency Program (2 - 3 Years)

 

After completing med school, it’s time to choose your specialty and complete your residency. These residency programs are offered in conjunction with intensive clinical training experiences. 

Those desiring to enter family practice can choose from more than 470 family medicine residency programs, including many located in small communities across the country. These students follow a group of patients throughout their residency, providing the same continuity of care that will be expected in their private practice.

The American Medical Association’s online FREIDA service is an interactive database of over 9,400 graduate medical education programs. These programs are all accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. There is also information on over 200 combined specialty programs.

While completing their residency and over the span of their careers, family physicians must master many procedures, including hospital-based procedures and outpatient clinic platforms. Family physicians gain experience in caring for infants, children and adolescents. Family practice doctors can pursue additional training to help better serve their patients who have special needs, such as athletes, people with chronic diseases and the elderly.

 

6. Complete a Fellowship Program (Optional)

 

Fellowships are available to physicians after completion of a residency program, allowing them to further specialize in areas such as sports medicine, geriatrics, obstetrics, and preventative medicine.

 

Explore the Fellowship Directory

 

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Salary Outlook

Title Company Location Posted
12.05.2016
The Department of Family Medicine is recruiting for Family Medicine physicians with a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Geriatrics to provide clinical care in our Geriatrics Clinic in the Iowa City area. This is an excellent...
12.05.2016
The Department of Family Medicine at the University of Iowa is recruiting for a full-time, non-tenured clinical family medicine physician to work in Muscatine, Iowa. This is an opportunity to join a small practice in a state-of-the-art building,...
12.05.2016
FamilyHealth Medical Clinic, part of the independent healthcare community of Northfield Hospital & Clinics, is seeking a Family Medicine Physician to join our Lakeville Clinic. If you'd like to be part of a team where you can contribute to...
12.05.2016
Family Medicine Physician Apply Refer a Friend Back Category: Physician Location: Malden, MA Department: PSC PO Physician Recruitment Employment Type: Full Time Hours/Week: 40 Date Posted: 11/18/2016 Requisition Number:...
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine - St. Anthony Healthplex EastSt. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting a BE/BC Family Medicine physician for outpatient primary care at St. Anthony Healthplex East. This state of the art campus includes a...
12.05.2016
Baton Rouge General Physicians Baton Rouge General is seeking a Family Medicine Physician to join our Telehealth team. This is an excellent opportunity to join a high quality, growing healthcare system with access to comprehensive resources, a...
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician - St. Anthony Healthplex South St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St....
12.05.2016
The Department of Family Medicine is recruiting for Family Medicine physicians to provide clinical care in an Iowa City area clinic. This is an excellent opportunity to practice a full-range of primary care/family medicine, including outpatient,...
12.05.2016
Cuyuna Regional Medical Center is seeking two full-time Family Medicine physicians for its Crosby Clinic. Located in the heart of the Cuyuna Lakes Area, CRMCs Crosby clinic has been able to attract dedicated, quality physicians and support staffs...
12.05.2016
The Plaza Family Medicine Licensed Practical Nurse/Certified Medical Assistant renders care to patients in the clinic setting as directed by the health car provider and under the direction of the RN Nursing Supervisor. We are looking for a...
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine - St. Anthony Healthplex MustangSt. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting a BE/BC Family Medicine or Internal Medicine physician for outpatient primary care at St. Anthony Healthplex Mustang. This state of...
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St. Anthony Family Medicine Midtown in...
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician - St. Anthony Healthplex South St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St....
12.09.2016
DescriptionFamily Medicine/Internal Medicine Primary Care Physician - St. Anthony Physicians Shawnee St. Anthony Physicians Shawnee is actively recruiting two BE/BC family medicine or internal medicine physicians for outpatient opportunities at...
12.09.2016
- CLINICAL LAB SUPERVISOR - FAMILY MEDICINE SERVICES (OTH01JD7) Job Description CLINICAL LAB SUPERVISOR - FAMILY MEDICINE SERVICES-OTH01JD7 Description Clinical Lab Supervisor Location: UNC Medical Center, Family Medicine Laboratory...
  1. FAMILY MEDICINE/GERIATRICS FACULTY Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Family Medicine is recruiting for Family Medicine physicians with a Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Geriatrics to provide clinical care in our Geriatrics Clinic in the Iowa City area. This is an excellent...
  2. FAMILY MEDICINE MUSCATINE-FACULTY Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Family Medicine at the University of Iowa is recruiting for a full-time, non-tenured clinical family medicine physician to work in Muscatine, Iowa. This is an opportunity to join a small practice in a state-of-the-art building,...
  3. Family Medicine Physician Northfield, MN Northfield Hospital & Clinics
    FamilyHealth Medical Clinic, part of the independent healthcare community of Northfield Hospital & Clinics, is seeking a Family Medicine Physician to join our Lakeville Clinic. If you'd like to be part of a team where you can contribute to...
  4. Family Medicine Physician Cambridge, MA Cambridge Health Alliance
    Family Medicine Physician Apply Refer a Friend Back Category: Physician Location: Malden, MA Department: PSC PO Physician Recruitment Employment Type: Full Time Hours/Week: 40 Date Posted: 11/18/2016 Requisition Number:...
  5. Physician - Family Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine - St. Anthony Healthplex EastSt. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting a BE/BC Family Medicine physician for outpatient primary care at St. Anthony Healthplex East. This state of the art campus includes a...
  6. Family Medicine Physician- Telehealth Baton Rouge, LA Baton Rouge General Medical Center
    Baton Rouge General Physicians Baton Rouge General is seeking a Family Medicine Physician to join our Telehealth team. This is an excellent opportunity to join a high quality, growing healthcare system with access to comprehensive resources, a...
  7. Physician - Family Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician - St. Anthony Healthplex South St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St....
  8. FAMILY MEDICINE FACULTY-IOWA CITY Iowa City, IA University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
    The Department of Family Medicine is recruiting for Family Medicine physicians to provide clinical care in an Iowa City area clinic. This is an excellent opportunity to practice a full-range of primary care/family medicine, including outpatient,...
  9. Family Medicine Physician-Crosby Clinic Crosby, MN Cuyuna Regional Medical Center
    Cuyuna Regional Medical Center is seeking two full-time Family Medicine physicians for its Crosby Clinic. Located in the heart of the Cuyuna Lakes Area, CRMCs Crosby clinic has been able to attract dedicated, quality physicians and support staffs...
  10. LPN/CMA (Plaza Family Medicine) St. Cloud, MN CentraCare Health
    The Plaza Family Medicine Licensed Practical Nurse/Certified Medical Assistant renders care to patients in the clinic setting as directed by the health car provider and under the direction of the RN Nursing Supervisor. We are looking for a...
  11. Physician - Family Medicine & Internal Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine - St. Anthony Healthplex MustangSt. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting a BE/BC Family Medicine or Internal Medicine physician for outpatient primary care at St. Anthony Healthplex Mustang. This state of...
  12. Physician - Family Medicine & Internal Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St. Anthony Family Medicine Midtown in...
  13. Physician - Family Medicine & Internal Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine or Internal Medicine Physician - St. Anthony Healthplex South St. Anthony Physicians Group is actively recruiting BE/BC family medicine and internal medicine physicians for outpatient primary care positions at St....
  14. Physician - Family Medicine & Internal Medicine Oklahoma City, OK St. Anthony Hospital
    DescriptionFamily Medicine/Internal Medicine Primary Care Physician - St. Anthony Physicians Shawnee St. Anthony Physicians Shawnee is actively recruiting two BE/BC family medicine or internal medicine physicians for outpatient opportunities at...
  15. CLINICAL LAB SUPERVISOR - FAMILY MEDICINE SERVICES Chapel Hill, NC UNC Health Care
    - CLINICAL LAB SUPERVISOR - FAMILY MEDICINE SERVICES (OTH01JD7) Job Description CLINICAL LAB SUPERVISOR - FAMILY MEDICINE SERVICES-OTH01JD7 Description Clinical Lab Supervisor Location: UNC Medical Center, Family Medicine Laboratory...