Family Doctors and General Practitioners

Family physicians and general practitioners, or GPs, are medical experts who provide primary care to individuals, usually working at private offices or public health clinics.

The work environment, training, and qualifications of a GP and family physician are very similar, but the certification processes are different. You’ve probably dealt with many GPs or family physicians; these are the “regular doctors” who you go to for checkups, prescriptions, and basic treatment when you’re sick. In most cases, people see the same GP or family physician for years, sometimes even an entire lifetime.

Job Description: A Day in the Life of a General Practitioner or Family Physician

A GP or family physician is likely to work at a public health clinic, private practice, or drop-in clinic. The day starts early, as most physicians get to work around 8:00am to begin seeing patients. An average day usually involves seeing patients for a wide variety of reasons, anything from a general physical exam to treatment of a specific physical ailment. While most clinics and doctor’s offices schedule appointments, some offer drop-in hours as well.

General Requirements and Training

Being a GP or family physician requires patience and people skills. These physicians interact with people all day, from patients to nurses. The entire education and training process usually takes at least ten years. This means first getting an undergraduate degree, usually in the sciences, continuing to medical school, completing an intern training program, and then undertaking three to eight years of hands-on work as a medical resident.

Once they complete their training, GPs become certified by taking an examination administered by the American Board of General Practice, while family physicians become certified via the American Board of Family Practice. Both family physicians and GPs must become re-certified throughout their careers, which they do by taking exams and participating in continuing education courses that ensure they are up-to-date on the latest medical developments.

Salary Details

The salary of a general practitioner is likely to be in the six figure digits, but the range of salaries is quite large, depending on a GP’s level of experience, location and specialty.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median salary of family physicians and general practitioners as $157,250, as of May 2008. Salary.com estimates that the middle 50% earnings range for family practitioners is $141,569 to $187,588. Payscale.com includes general and family practitioners in a single group, estimating that physicians with one to four years of experience earn from $99,218 to $144,931, while those with twenty or more years of experience earn anywhere from $119,997 to $186,403.

GP and family physician practices usually provide benefits including vacation time, and health and dental benefits.

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