General Practitioner

A general practitioner is a medical doctor who has not studied in a specialized area of medicine. Sometimes called a “family doctor” or primary care physician, these are the doctors who are on the front line of patient care. They are the first doctor a patient sees for help. Their responsibilities include building relationships of trust with patients, educating them and evaluating and diagnosing diseases. They must determine what course of action will be best for the patient and when to call in a specialist.

Education and Skills

The road to becoming a physician is a long, expensive and arduous one. A person who wants to be a general practitioner must be prepared to work hard for six to eight years. The first four years are undergraduate studies. During these years a candidate for medical school will study in a pre-med program that includes many math and the science classes. Medical students get experience volunteering in clinics.

There is heavy competition to get into medical school. Candidates must take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). If they score well on the MCAT, have good grades and a history of volunteering they have an edge. Medical school consists of two years of classroom instruction and two of directed clinical practice. Some schools combine the process into one demanding six-year program.

During the two to four years of residency, students are paid for their work in hospitals or clinic settings. In order to practice medicine, they need to the pass licensing exams.

Family practitioners need a broad spectrum of skills. They must translate state and federal requirements for health care. Doctors need to know how to interact successfully with a variety of different kinds of people including employees. Physicians should be able to clearly explain procedures and discuss diagnoses and treatment plans. They should work on their continuing education to stay abreast of new ways to resolve health issues. Physicians need to be self-directed, solvers of problems and able to make wise decisions quickly.

How Much Do General Practitioners Earn?

Salaries for physicians vary from state to state and city to city. On the low end doctors earn only $28,000 per year. On the high end of the scale, it may be as much as $1,112,320 a year. Some variables include the education and experience the doctor has had and the area in which he or she is practicing. In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a G.P. at Temple University may earn up to $41,710 a year. In Spring Hill, Florida a year’s salary might be as much as $256,568.

Is There a Future for General Practitioners?

There is a great need for primary care physicians. Many medical students prefer specialized medicine. Schools are training medical students, but residential opportunities are now fewer. In some places the general practitioners are in such demand that they make more money than specialists. Nurse practitioners and physicians assistants help take up some of the slack, but they cannot take the place of the general practitioners.