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When most people think of a doctor, they think of a family practitioner. A family practitioner is a doctor who specializes in caring for the entire family. They serve as a doctor for individuals regardless of their age and gender. Patients can be children, adults, and the elderly, and are treated for a wide array of medical issues.
This type of doctor is especially prominent in small, rural communities where there may not be the funds, population, or facilities available to justify doctors who specialize in serving different ages. However, family practitioners can be found in urban and suburban settings as well.
A family practitioner will use their knowledge as a medical professional to diagnose and treat a variety of medical issues. If a medical problem is outside the range of practice of a family practitioner, they will then refer the patient to an appropriate specialist.
Family practitioners also participate in well-care visits with their patients. These are visits that the patient attends despite being in good health. For children, these visits consist of monitoring their growth and developmental milestones. For adults, the doctor will examine their weight to make sure it is at a healthy level, and may perform routine yearly tests - such as cholesterol tests, pap tests, and blood pressure readings - based on a person's age and other factors. Plus, the doctor will administer vaccines to those who need them. A family practitioner is usually the first doctor that someone will call when they are experiencing an illness or health problem.
Some family practitioners are even able to oversee a pregnancy, help a woman give birth to a child, and supervise a newborn's medical care. Family practitioners are able to participate in almost every aspect of the medical profession when caring for a patient or a family.
Family practitioners work in hospitals or private practices. In the workplace, family doctors will be interacting not only with patients, but with nurses, office workers, and other medical professionals. Some work as professors for universities, while others find work with the government or non-profit organizations.
In rural settings, family practitioners generally set up their own office to serve the people of a town. In urban settings, the workload can be much busier. Some family practitioners report working well over the standard five-day, forty-hour work week.
In order to be a family practitioner, one must complete a bachelor's degree. Common undergraduate majors for aspiring family practitioners include biology and chemistry. Once a bachelor's degree has been attained, the student must pass the MCAT exam, and apply for four years of medical school. Upon graduating from medical school, family practitioners work as hospital residents for three to four years under the supervision of an attending doctor. In addition to the required schooling, some family practitioners opt to gain additional certifications so that they can perform more complex procedures, such as delivering a baby.
The effective family physician brings a unique set of qualities and skills to a unique practice setting, keeps these up to date, and applies them by using the patient-centred clinical method to maintain and promote the health of patients in his or her practice.
Most medical specialists focus on a particular part of the body or a specific type of disease. Doctors who specialize in family medicine provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages with all sorts of conditions.