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4 Characteristics of a Successful General Practitioner

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A great post by Dr. KrisEmily McCrory over at Physicians Practice explains why general practitioners should be proud of their career choice.

“Family medicine physicians often find ourselves having to explain our career choice: As students we are often encouraged to match in other, more lucrative or prestigious, specialties,” she writes. “Family Medicine is the safety specialty, where you go if you have to scramble. We are underpaid and overworked; yet I believe family medicine doctors are the doctors many medical students aspired to be when they eagerly applied to medical school.”

She then points out several characteristics of the general practitioner that makes them unique and irreplaceable in healthcare:

1. General practitioners have to know a lot about every area of healthcare.

Generalists must be “competent in several fields or activities,” she explains, “in order to care for our patients.” Depending on the type of area in which a family medicine physician is located, specialists may not be nearby. And the patients may not be able to afford those specialists or they may not have the time to go and see them.

2. General practitioners are required to be innovative.

Whether it’s “creating a diabetic menu for a patient stretching an income to feed himself and his adult children, grandchildren, and often, aged parents; deciding which test can be deferred for a diagnosis that can be clinically identified; or knowing which pharmacies offer free diabetes supplies and antibiotics,” the generalist has to be prepared to meet all needs using means that may or may not be standard procedure. They have to be a jack-of-all-trades, she writes.

3. General practitioners are also personal practitioners; forming deep and long-lasting relationships with patients is part of the job.

“I care for multiple generations of the same family and an office visit for a toddler's well-child visit may also involve a discussion of mom's contraceptive needs or grandpa's necessary refills,” she explains. “My patients face various barriers getting to see me, so if I have a captive audience I take advantage of it, even when it means creating three visits out of the space allotted for one.”

4. General practitioners must be prepared to juggle more than just patient care.

McCory says she often feels “lost in the maze of the demands. Medical school failed to provide any lectures on filling out disability paperwork or on providing explanations of medical necessity.”

The personal anecdotes she relates in her post are worth reading, and they will remind you why being a general practitioner is not just a career choice, but as with all specialties, it’s also a calling that is vitally needed in today’s healthcare world.

As physicians looking for jobs, why did you choose the specialty you’re in? If asked in a job interview why you chose your specialty, which reasons would you give? What aspects of your specialty do you love?

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