The family practitioner represents the stereotypical doctor—a generalist who helps maintain the well-being of people. This includes well-patient visits to upset stomachs to respiratory illnesses. Classically, these doctors also performed in-house visits before offices existed.
Daily Clinical Lifestyle
Family medicine physicians typically train for three years of residency after medical school. Afterward, clinical practice typically involves outpatient care. Hours worked are relatively reasonable in the 9am-5pm range, or 8am to 5pm five days a week. A family practitioner typically sees approximately 15-25 patients per day. Many of these are well-patient visits to sick visits. Illnesses treated include hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, diabetes, upper respiratory illnesses, sinusitis, and musculoskeletal issues.
Stress levels are relatively low, except for the occasional hospital-bound sick patient. Even then, most family practitioners opt not to have hospital privileges. In these cases, Hospitalists take care of inpatients and offer a buffer to a more sanitary lifestyle of an outpatient based family practitioner.
Documentation and increasing requirements for patient volume tend to be the common stressors in this field. Overall, the lifestyle of a family medicine practitioner is very manageable in the spectrum of physician specialties.
One of the advantages of a family medical practice is that equipment needs are relatively low. This allows the doctor to have increased flexibility to perform exams both in the office and even at the patient’s residence. One possible venue to combat against the ever increasing number of clinic patients as governed by insurance companies is to care for patients on a per subscription basis. This allows patients to have more exclusive access to their doctor while allowing the doctor to personalize care to a smaller number of patients. Does this translate to a higher income? Likely, but the compromise is that the stakes will be higher and the clientele will likely be more demanding. Expect to see more family medicine doctors transitioning to concierge medicine in the future.
Perils of being a family practitioner.
Healthcare will always continue to become more complex. Increasing regulations, increasing number of administrators, and increasing healthcare costs will continue to squeeze all doctors. “Physician extenders” have become a more common term these days to describe adjunct nursing staff to assist with healthcare. Some of these physician assistant and nursing positions have frighteningly similar daily tasks as a family practitioner. Will the role of a family practitioner be obviated in the future? Who knows, but I would assume that there should be distinguishing between someone with a medical degree and that of everyone else.
Are you a family practitioner? Are there other aspects of your field that you would like to add?
(Photo courtesy of Flickr).