The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the number of family medicine physicians was 109,370 in 2019. Just like most other careers in the healthcare industry, working as a family physician has several perks. If you have a passion for family medicine, a career in the field will be fulfilling.
Family physicians are primary care doctors caring for all patients, making them ideal for a typical family. They can diagnose any illness and prescribe treatments as necessary. Based on these roles, there are several requirements that one needs to become a family doctor.
If you want to pursue a physician’s career, you need to know what it takes. Here is a guide on how to become a family physician:
Education and Training for Family Medicine
Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step towards becoming a family doctor. During your undergraduate studies, there is no specific major that you need to undertake. However, you should have a pre-medical course such as chemistry, biology, English, Math, and physics.
In your junior and senior years of the undergraduate program, you’ll need to study for your Medical College Admission Test. Your transcripts will be useful in applying to medical schools.
After passing your MCAT, you’ll enroll for a medical degree. Medical schools require four years to complete a Doctor of Medicine (M.D) degree. Within the first two years, the focus is on classroom studies and laboratory experiments in pathology, biochemistry, ethics, anatomy, infectious diseases, and pharmacology.
In the next half of your medical school, you have to go for an internship under licensed doctors. Working as interns in clinics and hospitals give the student a feel of the actual job. The working hours are somehow long, and interns have to develop resilience.
At this point, you’ll get significant experience in the medical field. Students rotate to serve in areas such as emergency medicine, family medicine, obstetrics, and surgery.
You need to undergo a residency training program to become a family doctor. A typical residency is about three years. It involves diagnosing and treating patients while under the supervision of qualified doctors.
Skills and Experience
Individuals hoping to have a successful physician’s career need to have a set of skills and experience that resonates with the roles. Other than intellectual abilities, several capabilities will make your job better.
Leadership skills will increase your chances of success as a family physician. As you grow in your career, you’ll be supervising a healthcare team. You need to ensure that you have great skills to guide the team in providing optimal patient care.
More importantly, family physicians need to be detailed-oriented and organized. You need to possess problem-solving and communication skills for a better understanding of patients’ needs. Your personality should also be consistent with the roles you’ll be playing throughout your career.
Get a Medical License
Licensing requirements for doctors vary depending on the state. You’ll get your medical license once you graduate from a medical program and finish your residency. These programs need to be accredited for you to qualify for a license.
In the U.S., the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam and U.S. Medical Licensing Exam are the two main bodies for licensing exams. With licensing, you can start operating as a family physician.
You can work as a family medicine specialist in different facilities. As you gain more experience, you’ll be in a better position to start your practice.
Get Certification for Family Medicine
Certification will make you rank high in your physician’s career. You can sit for your Maintenance of Certification Exam from the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). Board certification shows a mark of distinction, which will make you rank highly as a physician.
You need to pass your MC-FP exam, complete a three-year training in a residency program, and have a medical license to get the certification. More importantly, you’ll need 150 credits of further education for board certification. If you’re wondering how to become a family doctor and get clients, board certification is the way to go.
The healthcare industry will experience an unprecedented growth of 14% by 2028. With the rising health needs, technical advances, and population changes, health will continue to have a high demand in the U.S. A career in family medicine is promising as its demand will be at an all-time high in the years to come.
Family doctors can work anywhere in the country. In states like Florida, Texas, Illinois, and California, there are high rates of employment in the field. You can work in private practices, federal government agencies, universities, and other healthcare environments.
On average, family physicians have an annual income of $205,590. The salary depends on the hours worked, the practitioner’s experience, demand, practice location, and extra work as locum tenen providers. Iowa ranks first in paying the highest salary to its family physicians.
Being part of a professional body helps you to get connected with other healthcare providers. It will be easier to remain focused on core values and principles of medicine. More importantly, you’ll have opportunities to network and benefit from a range of resources.
The American Medical Association is one of the organizations that you can join once you become a family physician. It aims at promoting medicine while improving public health. The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) seeks to improve the health of communities, families, and patients through networking, creativity, and resource opportunities.
If you’re yet to join a professional healthcare organization, it’s high time you made a move. You’ll get numerous opportunities to improve your career.
If you’re wondering how to become a family physician, you need to meet all the requirements of a physician’s career. After getting your bachelor’s degree, you can take any path in healthcare. With family medicine, you’ll need to earn your medical degree before going for a residency program.
With licensing and certification, your chances of growth in the career will increase. More experience will mean higher compensation. While the salary might be attractive, it is vital to follow the family medicine path if you’re passionate.