Generally speaking, most encounters we have with doctors are in a family practice setting. From childhood vaccinations to annual check-ups, the vast majority of individuals in need of medical care receive it through their family doctor, otherwise known as their primary care physician.
Providing individualized healthcare to patients is at the core of family medicine. In fact, it’s so important that family medicine is considered a distinct specialization.
With this in mind, let’s dive a little deeper into family medicine in an effort to better understand why its a specialized branch of modern healthcare:
The seven clerkships of modern medicine
The best way to appreciate the importance of family medicine is to understand its role as one of seven fundamental medical disciplines. Known to medical students as the seven clerkships, these disciplines represent the entirety of modern medical science. The seven clerkships are as follows:
- Internal Medicine
- Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB-GYN)
- Family Medicine
As you can see, family medicine is considered to be as specialized as surgery and psychiatry. In other words, medical doctors are required to go through additional training and certification before they can become primary care physicians.
Becoming an ABFM-certified physician
The path to becoming a family physician starts with four years of medical school, followed by a minimum of three years spent in a family medicine residency. Once they complete their studies and residency, aspiring family physicians must pass the American Board of Family Medicine exam. Medical doctors are able to practice family medicine once they receive their ABFM certification.
The role of family physicians in modern medicine
You’re probably still wondering why family medicine is considered a unique medical discipline. It comes down to the vast array of conditions and diseases that family doctors are expected to diagnose, along with the wide variety of patients they’re expected to treat. Family physicians are also expected to provide continuous care to patients over many years or even decades. The responsibilities of family physicians mean they must possess an exceptional amount of knowledge and be able to call upon an equal volume of insight and experience.
Standard procedures performed by family physicians
Family physicians are tasked with diagnosing and treating many different conditions and diseases. Moreover, what they encounter one day can vary greatly from the next. For instance, it could be mostly flu cases one week, then coronavirus the next. All the while, they must be ready to address whatever else comes their way.
Generally speaking, the procedures a family physician can expect to perform include the following:
- Family planning
In addition to the aforementioned procedures, family doctors are also tasked with diagnosing and treating common ailments and injuries. The list includes acne, high blood pressure, insomnia, nausea, sexually transmitted infections, and stomach problems.
Family physicians must also be able to determine when another specialist is required. While they have the skills, knowledge, and expertise to treat most patients for most conditions, they’re not superhumans. Sooner or later, every family doctor is stumped or otherwise out of their element, at which point the referral process begins.
Let’s recap: family medicine is considered its own branch of medicine. Becoming a family physician starts with specific coursework and residency. The process concludes with certification. From there, family physicians are tasked with developing a registry of patients who they see on a regular basis for a whole host of different reasons. They must also continue their education as medical science continues to advance. That way, they’re able to provide the most up-to-date medical advice and treatment options to their patients.
Chances are your next encounter with a doctor will be with a family physician. That’s because family doctors serve as the first line of defense among healthcare providers with a focus on an individualized approach. If further medical assistance is required, your family physician will call upon additional specialists. But until then, they continue to be the foremost authority on an individual’s health and wellness. You might be in the waiting room longer than you want, but it’s worth the expert care you’ll receive.
Julie Steinbeck is a freelance writer from Florida. She enjoys writing about business, finance, health, and travel.