Exploring this Job
As with any career, talking with a high school counselor and interviewing those working in the field are useful ways to explore your interest. You might also want to read professional journals—such as American Family Physician and Family Practice Management—to learn more about business and practice issues affecting general practitioners. Sample articles from these publications can be accessed at the American Academy of Family Physicians Web site, http://www.aafp.org/journals.html.
Volunteering at local hospitals or at other health care facilities will help you gain exposure to a medical environment and experience helping people, even if your job involves delivering flowers or filling water pitchers in patients' rooms.
Finally, visit http://www.aafp.org/medical-school-residency/premed/career.html to read Is a Career in Medicine Right for You?
The general practitioner (GP) usually works with a staff of nurses and office personnel. Other physicians and medical personnel may be a part of the office setup as well. The GP sees patients ranging in age from newborns to the elderly. Unlike a specialist, the general practitioner treats the whole patient, not just a specific illness or body system. The general practitioner may give the patient diet and lifestyle advice, as well as methods for preventing disease or injury. Some general practitioners may also provide prenatal care and deliver babies. The GP treats patients who have a wide variety of ailments and orders diagnostic tests and procedures, if necessary. If a patient comes in with an illness that requires special medical treatment, that patient is often referred to an appropriate specialist.
Usually about 70 percent of a general practitioner's workday is spent seeing patients in an office. They also treat patients in hospitals, confer with other medical personnel, patients, and family members, and perform limited surgery. Some practitioners might make house calls if the patient is unable to come to the office. In some private office situations, the general practitioner also oversees the office finances, equipment and supply purchases, and personnel. Many general practitioners must be on call to treat patients after regular office hours. If the GP works in a medical group they usually take turns being on call. General practitioners work long, irregular hours. Physicians in solo or private practice put in more hours, on average, than physicians who are employed by managed care facilities.