Doctor Job Description
The primary role of doctors is to provide care to patients in a private office or hospital setting. In a general practice, doctors will diagnose and prescribe medications for illnesses and assess and tend to minor injuries, such as cuts or burns. Doctors will apply bandages, suture cuts, and outline treatment protocols. They typically review a patient’s medical history, perform physical exams, check vitals, and discuss nutrition and wellness plans. Doctors can choose to specialize in a number of areas, such as cardiology or gastroenterology; the responsibilities for these doctors vary according to specialty.
Doctors can work in clinics, outpatient facilities, hospitals, or in private practices. The overall employment growth rate for doctors is expected to be 15 percent over the 2016 to 2026 time period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This projection is due mainly to the continued growth of the aging population in need of medical care and the increase in chronic illnesses that require medical attention. Improvement in therapies and medical technologies are also leading to more people seeing doctors.
Doctor Duties and Responsibilities
Doctors perform a multitude of tasks in order to bring care to their patients. We have examined various job listings for doctors and have the found the following to be among those most commonly mentioned as responsibilities for this profession:
Evaluate Patients’ Health
Doctors are adept at performing physical and routine exams as well as examinations of patients with injuries or illnesses. They are able to recognize potential health problems, diagnose diseases or illnesses, dress wounds, apply splints or casts, and conduct re-evaluations to ensure the progress of an injured or ill patient.
Discuss Treatment Plans and Options
Once a diagnosis has been made, doctors present treatment plans to a patient. They are typically involved in patient education regarding healthy strategies and practices and relay different treatment options when applicable. Doctors prescribe necessary medications or wellness routines that help patients overcome or prevent illnesses and injuries.
Provide Details of Exams for Patient Files
It is up to doctors to keep meticulous notes on each patient to be added to individual records. Doctors often recite findings and patient histories using dictation software. Doctors typically review patient histories, make notes of medications, record vitals, and maintain progress reports on patients throughout their treatment plans.
In any specialty area, doctors possess strong verbal and written communication, listening, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Doctors need to be empathetic, caring, and supportive individuals who are concerned with helping people. They are detail-oriented and possess the ability to work well under pressure. In addition, the ability to multi-task and demonstrate strong time management skills are helpful. Besides these skills, doctors should possess the following abilities:
- Perform physical exams and assess patients’ health and health needs
- Discuss appropriate treatment plans for specific injuries or illnesses
- Administer injections and prescribe medications
- Create patient notes for medical records purposes
- Outline patient health care plans
Doctor Tools of the Trade
Doctors rely on various tools to complete the daily duties of their profession. If you wish to work as a doctor, you should have an understanding of the following:
- Medical Dictation Software - Doctors often utilize dictation software to make electronic notes for each patient that can later be transcribed and filed into patient medical records
- Basic Exam Tools - From stethoscopes to EKG machines, doctors have a working knowledge of the most basic physical and routine exam tools used in the medical field
- Basic Computer Applications – Doctors understand basic computer applications, such as email and Microsoft Word
Doctor Education and Training
To become a doctor, one must complete medical school training and obtain a doctor of medicine degree. Medical students must also complete an internship and residency. In residencies, aspiring doctors typically complete rotations in various areas. Doctors must also pass state board licensing exams and obtain a license to practice medicine in the state in which they will work. Voluntary certification from various professional associations is helpful for career advancement.
The BLS reports that the median annual salary of doctors varies greatly and is mainly dependent on specialty area. For instance, a doctor of family medicine earn a median annual salary of $230,456, while general surgeons can make a median annual wage of $409,665. Those working in private practice and hospitals can earn among the highest mean annual salaries. Geographically, doctors practicing in New Hampshire ($272,820), Wyoming ($259,940), and Minnesota ($253,440) are paid the highest mean annual salaries in the U.S.
It is always helpful to review more detailed resources about any profession before making a decision about pursuing a particular career. Below, we have provided links to books, blogs, professional organizations, and more to help you gain more insight into what it takes to become and work as a doctor:
American Medical Association (AMA) – From advocacy to networking, the AMA—the premier association for doctors and other health care personnel—has been providing support and various resources to physicians since 1847.
World Organization of Family Doctors (WONCA) – Collaborating with the World Health Organization (WHO), this global organization provides Doctors with forums, educational opportunities, and more.
“The Doctor Weighs In” podcasts – These podcasts offer doctor interviews, health care strategies, current trends, and more.
DB’s Medical Rants – Written by Dr. Robert M. Centor, this blog covers everything from wellness strategies to tips and observations about medical practices and regulations.
KevinMD – From best practice suggestions to the economic challenges of the medical field, this blog takes a deeply personal look at what it takes in the modern world to be a successful doctor.
Physician’s Weekly – With insightful reflections about the medical profession (written by doctors) to columns focusing on specialty areas, this online publication provides the most updated medical news as well as interviews, research, and many other features.
Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories by Terrence Holt - These true-life tales take an insightful look into the world of a medical residency, showing the challenges and rewards of being a doctor.
One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases, and the Mysteries of Medicine by Brendan Reilly, M.D. – A distinguished physician takes you through a personal account of being a doctor: from the human to the business side of the health care system.
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