Last Updated on August 31, 2023 by Lori Pace
General practitioners are typically the first point of contact for any health issues. Commonly considered a family doctors, they are healthcare professionals who perform annual exams, address minor health concerns, and provide care for some chronic illnesses. But, how to become a general practitioner so that you can support people’s lives? So, in this article, we will discuss what a general practitioner is, what they do, and the educational requirements for this role.
Who are General Practitioners?
A general practitioner, also called a primary care physician, is a family medicine doctor specialising in various medical issues for patients of all ages. General practitioners also guide a variety of health concerns and refer patients to specialists when necessary. For this, make sure you do not misunderstand a general practitioner with a physician!
As general practitioners are patient-facing and interact with diverse populations each day, they must have exceptional communication skills. Besides, other skills that they should possess include:
- Listening skills
- Observation skills
- Attention to detail
- Customer service
What Does a General Practitioner Do?
General practitioners are qualified to provide physical exams on patients of all ages. They can also order and review blood work and take patient vital signs. Moreover, general practitioners also may refer a patient to a specialist when the care exceeds their expertise.
General practitioners can also prescribe medications to treat illness or prevent health issues with their qualifications. They then monitor patients’ reactions to drugs and schedule follow-up visits to ensure that the healthcare plan works.
Where Do General Practitioners Work?
A general practitioner may work in private practice or larger clinics with multiple doctors. Since many patients typically see the same general practitioner annually, many develop a long-standing professional relationship. Some general practitioners may provide virtual sections and prescribe medications online for patients depending on their practice and state licensing requirements.
How to Fulfill Education Requirements To Become General Practitioners
Steps to become a general practitioner:
1. Graduate from high school
While completing required high school courses, consider registering for advanced psychology, anatomy, and physics coursework. If you can do so, try using afternoons and weekends for volunteer work, and look for a position at a local hospital or senior citizen care facility. By taking advanced coursework and volunteering, you can learn the basics of healthcare and decide if this is the career path you want to pursue.
2. Complete a bachelor’s degree
Medical school requires a bachelor’s degree. Furthermore, it may be beneficial to have pre-medical courses on your transcript. It’s also helpful to research medical school requirements when choosing a bachelor’s program. This will ensure that you can enrol in undergraduate courses useful for your medical school, for example, chemistry, biology, anatomy, English and mathematics.
3. Pass the Medical College Admissions Test
Medical schools require a passing score on the MCAT. Your test score, along with your official application, transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays and resumes, can help you earn placement in a competitive medical program.
4. Attend medical school
Depending on the medical program you choose, you can receive either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) from working as a general practitioner. Each medical program includes anatomy and biology coursework and an in-depth medical lab curriculum. Besides, law and medical ethics courses teach students the legal requirements for practising medicine.
As an M.D. or D.O. student, you perform additional clinical rotations under the management of a licensed medical professional. So, by completing courses in various medical specialities, you can learn about different areas of medical care.
5. Pass required examinations
M.D. students take three tests as part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Students have to pass all portions before being allowed to practice medicine. Moreover, D.O. students can choose the USMLE or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX).
6. Complete a residency program
Future doctors learn on the job and under the guidance of experienced medical doctors through in-depth residency programs. Students are preparing to graduate medical school complete a residency program with the mentorship of a general practitioner. So, by completing a residency in the specific field in which they plan to work, new M.D. and D.O. graduates learn skills directly applicable to their future practices.
7. Get licensed
General practitioners acquire a state license before working with patients. However, the requirements could vary by location, so it’s helpful to research the information for your area. This can help you determine the amount of time you need to obtain a license before you are ready to practice.
8. Become board certified (Optional)
Even though it is optional, many general practitioners might choose to get certified in family medicine. However, this provides additional documentation that they are experts in their industry. The American Board of Family Medicine offers certification and requires an exam to become certified, along with specific residency prerequisites.
Salary of General Practitioners
The national average salary for general practitioners is about $105,374 per year in the US. Yet, your geographical location and years of experience may affect your annual earnings.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for physicians will increase by 4% by 2029, which is the average rate of growth for all occupations in that time frame.