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Last Updated: 03/17/15

Family Medicine Description

If you’re interested in becoming a physician is more focused on the prevention of illness, establishing an ongoing rapport with your patients and encountering a wide range of ailments, then you might be best suited for a career practicing family medicine. Family practice physicians are trained to diagnose, treat and prevent medical conditions in men, women, children and the elderly. At the same time, many family medicine physicians specialize in one particular population. Aside from women, men and the elderly, some other specialties you might consider would include:


Adolescent medicine: Deals with the unique physical, psychological and social characteristics of adolescents and their health-care problems and needs.


Geriatric medicine: Deals with the aging process including the diagnostic, preventive, therapeutic and rehabilitative aspects of illness.


Hospice and palliative medicine: Involves preventing and relieving pain and suffering in patients with terminal illnesses.


Sleep medicine: The diagnosis and management of various clinical conditions that occur during sleep or as a result of disturbed sleep.


Sports medicine: The management of sports injuries and continuous care that focuses on the enhancement of health and fitness and injury prevention.


Family physicians generally work in clinics or private practices, either individually or as part of a group of physicians who specialize in various clinical areas. While most of their days are spent at the office in which they practice, some days are spent visiting patients who have been admitted to the hospital or if they have a lot of elderly patients they may make visits to nursing homes or other elder care facilities. Most family medicine physicians work normal business hours during the week and can often take half or whole days off as they choose. On average, a family medicine physician sees about 20-25 patients each day, with an increase during cold and flu seasons, as this is one reason many people see their family practice physician.


Of 25 different specialties polled in a recent questionnaire by Medscape, family medicine physicians ranked 10th when it came to their level of happiness. This group reported an average score of 3.97 on the scale of 1 to 5 (5 being the happiest). However, their less hectic schedules might be why these physicians have a higher rate of successful marriage than the US population, with 87% of men and 75% of women being married.


Training Requirements

In order to become a practicing physician of family medicine you must complete a four year medical school program followed by a three year residency training program. During this program you will get hands-on experience in the field supervised by a practicing family practice physician. After completion of your residency, or at some point during it, you will have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). Then, if you choose to become certified to practice one of the specialties mentioned above, then you will need to complete at least one year of training in that area.



The salary for family medicine physicians is significantly less than those physicians who practice a more specialized type of medicine. According to a 2010 survey on physician compensation that was published in Modern Healthcare, the annual salary for family medicine physicians ranges from $175,000–$220,200.



Because a family medicine physician is trained in the unique medical needs of men, women, children and the elderly, these physicians are always in great demand no matter where you look. Also, because many insurance plans require that people get referred to a specialist by their primary care or family practice physician, these doctors fill a necessary position. Many new physicians find that they have better prospects in rural and low income areas as they tend to have a harder time attracting doctors than big cities do.


Family Medicine Resources and Sources: