General Practitioner Job Description
General practitioners are medical doctors who do not have a specialization, instead, they focus on general health. Most primary care physicians are general practitioners. General practitioners maintain a broad knowledge of disease and medication, as they have to be able to recognize the symptoms of conditions in which a specialist is needed. This is why they maintain good relationships with local specialists of all kinds. Though general practitioners usually work in a private office setting, they may also work in a hospital setting, as some perform general, non-invasive surgeries. The main difference between general practitioners and specialists is that the former has long-term patients. Adult patients often stay with their primary care physician for years. It takes good bedside manner to keep a strong clientele. General practitioners who have their own private practice typically work normal office hours during the week. Those who work in a hospital setting may work evening and overnight shifts. They may also have on-call days.
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for physicians and surgeons, which includes general practitioners, is set to rise 15 percent through 2026.
General Practitioner Duties and Responsibilities
General practitioners perform check-ups and monitor the health of patients. We researched general practitioner job descriptions to put together the following list of the most relevant duties and responsibilities for this position:
Conduct Medical Interviews with New Patients
Many people stay with their general practitioner for years, so the initial relationship-building stage is important. General practitioners conduct medical interviews with new patients to get a picture of their medical history and general attitudes towards health.
Perform Basic Health Examinations
A lot of the patients seen by general practitioners are there for a routine check-up. Most people go to their doctor for a yearly physical. Any irregularities in the results trigger a referral to a specialist.
Diagnose and Treat Basic Health Conditions
General practitioners diagnose many basic health conditions, such as colds, infections, viruses, and minor abrasions. They prescribe treatments and perform a follow-up analysis to determine if an appointment with a specialist is needed.
Recognize Symptoms of Serious Conditions and Refer Patients to a Specialist for Confirmation
As the job title suggests, general practitioners are generalists. They can recognize the symptoms of a wide range of diseases and know when to send patients to a specialist for further tests.
Delegate Tasks to Nurses or Other Healthcare Assistants
General practitioners have healthcare assistants who do things like draw blood, take height and weight measurements, and collect urine samples.
General Practitioner Skills
Since they don’t have a specialty, general practitioners have to maintain a working knowledge of the most common diseases and ailments. They also participate in continuing professional development to stay on top of the latest trends. Success requires a true passion for medicine. General practitioners have to recognize conditions that need to be further examined by a specialist. General practitioners need to be great communicators to explain sometimes complicated health issues, procedures, and medications to patients. A good bedside manner helps—a patient that feels their doctor doesn’t truly care about them will switch to a doctor who does. Compassionate care goes a long way. Besides these qualities and areas of knowledge, the following skills are needed to find employment:
- Performing basic physical examinations to determine overall health
- Analyzing patient medical charts to aid in a diagnosis
- Delegating tasks such as sample collection and blood work to healthcare assistants
- Examining patients to determine the presence of common viruses and infections
- Explaining diagnosis to patients who need to see a specialist
General Practitioner Tools of the Trade
- Stethoscope – used to listen to a patient’s heart rate
- Sphygmomanometer – used to measure blood pressure
- Otoscope – used to examine the ears, nose, and throat
General Practitioner Education and Training
General practitioners need a doctorate in medicine and to be licensed to practice medicine to find employment. Their educational journey starts with a bachelor’s degree. Most complete a pre-med program, but other science majors are also acceptable.
The next step is to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). A good score on this exam will get one into medical school, where the first two of four years is spent covering subjects such as anatomy, physiology, medical law, ethics, microbiology, pathology, and pharmacology. The final two years are spent doing clinical work under the supervision of a licensed doctor. Once they graduate from medical school, general practitioners complete a residency that takes two years.
Board certification is optional. General practitioners are certified in either family medicine or internal medicine, and the process takes about three years.
General Practitioner Salary
According to the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national median salary for general practitioners is $133,580. Those in the bottom 10 percent make below $69,890. Those in the top 10 percent make above $190,490.
General Practitioner Resources
If you aspire to become a general practitioner, then the following list of resources is for you:
American Academy of Family Physicians – This organization boasts a membership of more than 10,000 general practitioners who focus on family medicine. Its website is filled with great information for those who want to pursue that path.
American Board of Family Medicine – This organization certifies general practitioners who specialize in family medicine. Its website has all the information one needs to complete the certification program.
Family Medicine: Principles and Practice – This book is a tough read, but it is packed with highly detailed information on everything a general practitioner must know to practice family medicine.
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