Family Medicine: Comprehensive Care for the Whole Person
Family medicine integrates a broad-spectrum approach to primary care with the consideration of health-impacting social determinants and community factors, while also serving as an advocate for the patient in an increasingly complex health care system. Unlike other narrowly focused specialties, family medicine includes the biological, clinical, and behavioral sciences, encompassing all ages, sexes, each organ system, and every disease entity.
The focus of a family physician is the whole person. They shepherd male and female patients of all ages through the complex health system, and coordinate the care of their health. By building relationships with their patients over time, family physicians are able to develop a comprehensive understanding of their patients’ health, and offer insightful, personal guidance and treatment.
Family Medicine Facts
Studies reveal that family medicine:
- Reduces health care costs and increases health care quality.
- Plays an important role in access to health care. Family physicians are geographically distributed across the country more equitably than physicians from any other specialty.
- Helps to reduce health disparities. Family physicians are more accessible geographically and financially to underserved populations lacking access to quality health care than other primary care physicians.
- Improves overall health. Individuals who regularly visit a family physician are more likely to receive preventive services, better management of chronic illnesses, and decreased chance of premature death.
Relationships: The Heart of Family Medicine
The patient-physician relationship is at the heart of family medicine. Beyond reported concerns, family physicians take the time to consider additional health factors in their patients' lives, including family and community situations and relationships.
While there are similarities between family medicine and the other primary care specialties, it is the extent to which family physicians value, develop, nurture, and maintain a relationship with each patient that distinguishes family medicine from all other specialties.
The Variety of Ways that Family Physicians Serve Their Patients
BY PROVIDING SERVICES
As part of their primary care practice, family doctors offer diverse services to their patients.
- 36% perform minor surgical procedures
- 45% treat patients in the ICU
- 40% deliver care in hospital ERs
- 59% care for newborns
- 77% have hospital privileges
- 19% provide routine OB care
BY PERFORMING PROCEDURES
Family physicians are trained to perform multiple types of procedures, including:
- Family planning and early pregnancy evaluation and management
- Musculoskeletal injections
- Skin procedures
- Suturing lacerations
- Ultrasound imaging
What Family Physicians Do
- Care for patients regardless of age or health condition, sustaining an enduring and trusting relationship.
- Serve as a patient's first contact for health concerns.
- Offer insight on preventing, understanding, and managing illness.
- Navigate the health care system with patients, including specialist and hospital care coordination and follow-up.
- Use data and technology to prioritize and coordinate services, enhancing access, continuity, and relationships.
- Care for patients in the context of their family and the ways in which the health of each family member affects the others.
- Understand the effects of community-level factors and social determinants of health, helping patients to identify community resources available.
Medicine Based upon a Broad Scope of Knowledge
Family physicians complete extensive training beyond medical school in order to be able to provide the best possible patient care, including:
A 3-Year Residency
There are more than 470 family medicine residency programs in the United States. Settings include: academic, community, military, inner-city, urban, suburban, rural, and more. A few 4-year residency programs are available.
In-Depth Training Across the Lifespan
All family physicians are trained in labor and delivery; emergency medicine; surgery and procedures; pediatrics; hospital medicine (including intensive care, inpatient, and outpatient); and geriatrics.
Additional Training Options
Available fellowships and Certificates of Added Qualification (beyond Board certification) range in duration from three months to three years.
Hospice and palliative medicine
Family physicians who meet the criteria may obtain Board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM). Learn more about Board certification in family medicine by visiting the ABFM website(www.theabfm.org).
A Specialty in High Demand
Recruitment data indicates that family physicians are in high demand. According to Merritt, Hawkins & Associates(www.merritthawkins.com), family physicians have been the most recruited physicians for hospitals, medical groups, and health care organizations for eight years in a row.
Recuitment Numbers by Specialty
|Family Medicine||2014-2015: 734||2013-2014: 714||2012-2013 : 624||2011-2012 : 631||2010-2011: 532|
|Internal Medicine||2014-2015: 237||2013-2014: 235||2012-2013 : 194||2011-2012 : 235||2010-2011: 295|
|Hospitalist||2014-2015: 176||2013-2014: 231||2012-2013 : 178||2011-2012 : 155||2010-2011: 160|
|Psychiatry||2014-2015: 230||2013-2014: 206||2012-2013 : 168||2011-2012 : 168||2010-2011: 133|
|Nurse Practitioner||2014-2015: 143||2013-2014: 128||2012-2013 : 69||2011-2012 : 23||2010-2011: N/A|
|Pediatrics||2014-2015: 71||2013-2014: 92||2012-2013 : 87||2011-2012 : 70||2010-2011: 64|
|Emergency Medicine||2014-2015: 80||2013-2014: 89||2012-2013 : 111||2011-2012 : 106||2010-2011: 92|
|OB/GYN||2014-2015: 112||2013-2014: 70||2012-2013 : 77||2011-2012 : 81||2010-2011: 80|
|Physician Assistant||2014-2015: 63||2013-2014: 61||2012-2013 : 50||2011-2012 : 22||2010-2011: N/A|
|Neurology||2014-2015: 60||2013-2014: 61||2012-2013 : 71||2011-2012 : 41||2010-2011: 79|
|General Surgery||2014-2015: 63||2013-2014: 58||2012-2013 : 74||2011-2012 : 130||2010-2011: 69|
|Orthopedic Surgery||2014-2015: 106||2013-2014: 58||2012-2013 : 57||2011-2012 : 105||2010-2011: 104|
|Gastroenterology||2014-2015: 43||2013-2014: 54||2012-2013 : 37||2011-2012 : 51||2010-2011: 32|
|Hematology/Oncology||2014-2015: --||2013-2014: 50||2012-2013 : 45||2011-2012 : 53||2010-2011: 35|
|Otolaryngology||2014-2015: 52||2013-2014: 32||2012-2013 : 40||2011-2012 : 40||2010-2011: 31|
|Cardiology||2014-2015: 36||2013-2014: 32||2012-2013 : 38||2011-2012 : 46||2010-2011: 26|
|Urology||2014-2015: 40||2013-2014: 29||2012-2013 : 26||2011-2012 : 57||2010-2011: 56|
|Nerosurgery||2014-2015: --||2013-2014: 20||2012-2013 : 23||2011-2012 : 12||2010-2011: 7|
|Pulmonology||2014-2015: 38||2013-2014: 18||2012-2013 : 24||2011-2012 : 68||2010-2011: 32|
|Endocrinology||2014-2015: --||2013-2014: 17||2012-2013 : 22||2011-2012 : 16||2010-2011: 14|
Dr. Flora Sadri-Azarbeyejani
"Why I love being a family physician."
Read in-depth interviews with family physicians as they share about their career choice, a typical day in practice, and more.