What is family practice?
Family Practice is the medical specialty concerned with the total health of the individual and the family. It is the specialty of breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. Family Practice defines the "family" very broadly to mean a group of individuals with a continuing, legal, genetic, and/or emotional relationship. Because of their broad-based training, Family Physicians are able to care for all members of the family, not limited by the patient's age or sex, organ system, or disease entity.
Can family physicians really know everything?
Family Practice demands a very broad knowledge base, including all ages and all organ systems, yet family physicians independently manage more than 90% of the problems they encounter. How is this possible? FP Residency prepares its graduates to take care of common problems uncommonly well, using a holistic approach that treats patients in the context of family and community.
Family Practice emphasizes disease prevention, health promotion, behavioral science, and early detection of serious illness. While common conditions make up the majority of diagnoses, unusual problems occur regularly and with great variety. Beyond the standard diagnostic challenges is the unbounded intellectual challenge derived from an intensive involvement in the changing lives of patients and families. When sub-specialty care becomes necessary, Family Physicians coordinate care, making sure that the patient's concerns do not get lost in pursuit of diagnosis and treatment.
What is family practice residency training like?
Family Practice differs from other primary care specialties by building its residency programs around the concepts of continuous, comprehensive, cost-effective, family centered health care. While family practice residents spend substantial time both in hospitals and clinics, no other type of residency places as much emphasis on learning to provide continuous care for patients in the outpatient setting--the setting in which most practicing physicians spend the majority of their time. Family Practice residents begin seeing patients in the outpatient setting in their first year.
The three-year Family Practice curriculum includes training in internal medicine, obstetrics/gynecology, general surgery, pediatrics, geriatrics, psychiatry and human behavior, community medicine, emergency medicine, orthopedics, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, urology, radiology, and practice management.
What procedures do family physicians perform in the office and in the hospital?
Family physicians perform a wide range of procedures, depending upon their interest, training, and practice setting. A majority of family physicians in most areas of the country assist in major surgery on their patients, and sometimes perform major surgery such as cesarean section and appendectomy. Most family physicians perform some orthopedic procedures such as casting and splinting. Office procedures commonly include: skin biopsy, lesion removal, cryotherapy of skin lesions, vasectomy, cervical biopsy, endometrial aspiration, flexible sigmoidoscopy, spirometry and exercise electrocardiography. An increasing number of family physicians also perform colposcopy.
How flexible is a career in Family Practice?
The majority of Family Physicians maintain a wide scope of practice and find it easy to establish any kind of practice they wish. Family Physicians are found in urban, rural, and suburban communities and in academic or community-based centers. Many family physicians develop an area of expertise, such as sports medicine, geriatrics, preventive care, international health, women's health, adolescent health and research (fellowships after residency are available to develop these areas of expertise). Depending upon the type of practice they choose, there are many possibilities for Family Physicians, including: conducting research, maintaining an office practice, coordinating comprehensive care for their patients in a multi-specialty group, performing surgery, providing care for the seriously ill in hospital critical care units, handling major trauma cases, stabilizing patients for transport, staffing a hospital, delivering babies - including performing cesarean sections, or being the U.S. Surgeon General (Dr. David Satcher).
Excerpts from "Questions About Family Practice," Am. Fam. Phys, July 1992 and "Family Practice - What They Won't Tell You About Family Practice...," AAFP