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Family Physician Duties and Responsibilities

While a family physician’s day-to-day duties and responsibilities are determined by where they work, there are many core tasks associated with the role. Based on our analysis of job listings, these include:

Provide Holistic Care to Patients Family physicians see patients in their medical office and visit them in hospital settings when needed. Their job is to develop a roster of patients by providing comprehensive medical care. Family physicians help repair and improve diseased or injured body parts and internal health problems. They order prescriptions or additional therapy for patients when necessary.

Order and Interpret Diagnostic Tests Family physicians request, perform, and interpret diagnostic and clinical tests. They analyze test images and results in light of their patient’s medical history to inform their examinations and make accurate diagnoses. Family physicians then explain test results to patients and implement a care plan.

Advise Patients on Needed Health Changes Patients look to family physicians to provide expert advice concerning disease prevention. They may suggest critical changes in diet, activity levels, and hygiene. The lifestyle changes physicians recommend help patients improve their quality of life.

Monitor Patient Progress and Records Another critical activity for family physicians is keeping accurate and detailed records that document their observations from medical exams. Over time, family physicians monitor patient progress and treatment responses. They continually evaluate their patients’ overall heath and adjust individual treatments as necessary.

Collaborate with Other Healthcare Professionals Consulting with additional specialists and doctors about patient needs is another vital task for family physicians. Other healthcare professionals can offer different perspectives on client diagnoses and treatment options. Family physicians commonly coordinate care with physical therapists, pharmacists, psychologists, nurses, and social workers. They also refer patients to other specialists when further diagnosis or treatment is needed.


Family Physician Skills and Qualifications

Family physicians should be energetic, compassionate, and dedicated to meeting the long-term health needs of families. Employers expect physicians to have a valid state medical license and at least three years of experience as a practicing primary physician in a family care setting. The following skills are essential to getting the job done:

  • Family medicine experience – family physicians must have the combined skills of an internist and a pediatrician to care for children and adults
  • Analytical diagnosis – since all doctors are scientists, they use scientific techniques to sort through data and conflicting information to reach an accurate medical diagnosis
  • Physical fitness – performing physical tasks such as lifting or turning disabled patients is a requirement for family physicians. They also spend hours on their feet each day walking between patient rooms
  • Bedside manner – family physicians often interact with people who are sick, injured, or in pain. They need a kind and compassionate attitude when treating patients and their families
  • Problem-solving skills – physicians use problem-solving to evaluate patients’ symptoms and administer the appropriate treatments
  • Organization skills – handling multiple patient caseloads among different age groups requires that family physicians be organized
  • Leadership skills – family physicians who manage their own practice must effectively lead a staff of other professionals
  • Communication skills – since family physicians must communicate with a variety of patients of all ages as well as various support staff, they need excellent interpersonal skills

Family Physician Education and Training

Family physicians must meet demanding education and training requirements. In order to practice, they need a bachelor’s degree, a medical degree, and a minimum of three years of internship or resident experience in family care. Family physicians must also achieve certification from a medical board by passing the United States Medical Licensing Exam. Finally, all states require family physicians to be licensed to practice within their specific state.


Family Physician Salary and Outlook

According to PayScale, the median annual salary for family physicians is $175,311. The lowest 10 percent of earners make less than $100,000, while the highest 10 percent of earners make more than $240,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that industry employment of physicians will grow 13 percent through 2026. The BLS notes that this is faster than average for all occupations. As the general population continues to age, demand for family physician services is expected to increase.


Helpful Resources

We searched the web to find the best industry resources to help you continue exploring a career as a family physician. From career resource guides to industry groups, this list is packed with opportunities to learn, connect, and engage:

American Academy of Family Physician – AAFP is the nation’s premier association for family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students who work or aspire to work in family medicine

American College of Physicians – visit the ACP website to access educational resources, courses, training, and events that can help you become a successful family physician

Case Files Family Medicine – in order to grow as a family physician, you need exposure to real-life patient cases. This book features 60 real-world examples that teach readers basic family medicine concepts

Family Practice Guidelines – this well-known guide for primary care students and aspiring family physicians reviews current national practice guidelines, including routine health maintenance guidelines

Current Practice Guidelines in Primary Care 2018 – read this book to learnimportant disease screening, prevention, and management techniques for family physicians

Graber and Wilbur’s Family Medicine Examination and Board Review – this popular career preparation book will help you ace your family medicine certification and licensing exams

Association of Departments of Family Medicine – ADFM is a national organization that represents over 150 departments of family medicine and leads industry research and training for medical students studying family medicine