A day in the life of a family doctor

August 2, 2016

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If you’re thinking about becoming a doctor, you have a lot of specialties to choose from. One choice you might want to consider is a family practice doctor. Some medical specialties, such as an oncologist or cardiologist, focus on a specific part of the body or type of disease. But family doctors provide comprehensive care and treat the whole person. In some cases, they treat patients over their entire lifetime.

Although you might have a family practice doctor, you probably don’t get to see everything they do. So what is a day in the life of a family doctor really like? It involves a combination of seeing patients in the office, ordering tests, prescribing treatments and more. The bottom line is since family practice doctors see a diverse patient population and treat a variety of conditions, every day may be different.

Role overview

In general, family doctors may start their day at their office seeing patients. They may treat people with conditions ranging from minor, such as the flu, to serious diseases including heart disease and cancer.

Family practice doctors take medical histories, perform physical exams, and order diagnostic tests. They also spend part of their time reviewing labs, x-rays and other tests to make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.

In some instances, a family practice doctor is the first medical professional a person sees when they have symptoms. One important responsibility of a family practice doc is to consult with other specialists when needed. For example, if a patient comes in with signs of cancer, a family practice doctor may coordinate care with an oncologist. In addition to seeing patients in their office, family practice doctors also usually spend part of their day seeing their patients who are hospitalized.

The benefits of being a family doctor

One cool aspect of being a family practice doctor is you may see patients even when they are not ill. Part of your role is to help people prevent illness and stay healthy. For instance, family practice doctors often recommend regular checkups and routine health screenings to spot minor issues before they become serious. Doctors also spend time teaching patients about healthy lifestyle choices, disease prevention and provide information for people to take control of their health.

Family practice doctors are either in private practice or work as part of a group practice.  Salaries for family practice doctors vary depending on what part of the country they live in and how much experience they have. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average, family practice doctors earn about $195,000 a year.

One good thing about choosing family practice is experts predict there will be a lot of opportunities in the future. As medicine changes, more specialties emerge.  Less med school grads are going into family practice, which means there is a shortage of doctors in this specialty.

If you like the idea of having a longstanding relationship with patients, treating various conditions and working with a diverse patient population, becoming a family practice doctor may be the perfect fit!


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.