Career Q&A with Family Physicians: Life and Work in Family Medicine
"What do you love about being a family physician?"
There is nothing more rewarding than hearing a patient tell another how I saved his or her life.
"I love taking care of my patients and the difference I can make in their lives. They are like family, and there is nothing more rewarding than hearing a patient tell another how I saved his or her life."
My greatest reward is getting to know my patients and gaining their trust.
"I love the relational aspect of my practice. My greatest reward is getting to know my patients and gaining their trust through continuity of care and teaching the new generation of physicians, who will then go and serve their own communities."
My work is a great privilege.
"The level of engagement that I experience in my work is a great privilege. Never is a day the same as the one before. The constant education and rewards that come in the relationships between myself, my pateints, my students, residents, and colleagues is joy that prevents any need to look at my watch."
I appreciate the diversity in family medicine.
"I love being a generalist and being able to speak with experience about a wide range of clinical topics. I also appreciate the ability to bring clinical experience to research and health policy discussions. Importantly, I appreciate being part of a discipline that embraces not just the diversity of clinical care but also diverse career paths. There are family physicians in all levels of government, industry, and academia."
At the end of the day, I feel content, satisfied, and fulfilled.
"Every day is different. I help educate patients on how to change their lives to become healthy, achieve goals, and make informed decisions, whatever their goals may be — tobacco cessation, weight loss, healthy lifestyle. At the end of the day I feel content, satisfied, and fulfilled. I look back at the complexity of the work I have done, the care and the support I have given, and it feels good and rewarding. Whether the support is to my patients, the support staff, or my colleagues, I feel I have accomplished much.
This is not a job. It is a lifestyle choice that challenges your intellect daily and your ability to interact and develop relationships based on mutual trust to promote the health and wellbeing of your patients."
I love spending my life’s energies working with people to make their own best decisions.
"I love that I can spend my life’s energies and enthusiasm working with people to make their own best decisions about their lives, whether this is about health in a clinical setting or about professional formation and vocation in an educational setting.
Both roles have a remarkable intimacy, as a physician and as an educator, because I’m allowed into people’s lives along with all the messiness, confusion, brokenness, and hope. I draw insight and strength from engaging with others at various levels and in different situations. Nothing is mundane when I look at the opportunities I have, as long as I keep this sacredness at the center.
Place all this in the context of other people who want to change the world on a daily basis, while displaying some wickedly funny behavior whenever possible, and I marvel that I still draw a salary on top of it all.
Being a military physician provides a unique purpose and incredible pride.
"Being a military physician provides a unique sense of purpose and an incredible sense of pride. You know that you are making a difference every time you put on the uniform and look into the eyes of service men and women who have volunteered to serve in the defense of this great country. Being a member of the U.S. Army Medical Corps means that I was and am a part of something that is much larger than myself.
From a more practical standpoint, the rank structure inherent to the military makes the everyday practice of military medicine somewhat simpler than the practice of medicine in other organizations. Esprit de corps and interpersonal respect are part of military culture and naturally extended into military medical practice environments and clinical interactions.
Likewise, providing care to underserved populations also brings a simililar sense of purpose and pride. I entered the field of medicine because I wanted to help people and to make a difference. Being a family physician in both of these settings has allowed me to do that."
The abiding relationships with patients are immensely gratifying.
"I love the long-term, abiding connections that we can make with our patients. These connections are unfettered by the patients' genders, ages, or the nature of their complaints. I love that we help patients who present with undifferentiated complaints determine what might be happening, and then help patients make a decision as to the best approach to care. I love that I can see all members of a given family. I love that I have a chance to prevent, detect, or intervene upon illness before long-term complications develop. I love the academic challenges of figuring out how to address patients with complicated medical and phychosocial issues and the simple rewards of watching a healthy child grow and develop over time.
The breadth of what I do, the nature of my role, the abiding relationships with patients are immensely gratifying."
I become part of their lives and they become part of mine.
"What I love and cherish most about my work is the interactions with my patients and my staff. I become part of their lives and they become part of mine. My greatest reward as a family physician is when family members of an existing patient decide, after experiencing how I care for their loved ones, to become patients themselves and also allow me to care for them."
Helping people is by far the greatest reward.
"Helping people is by far the greatest reward whether it is helping a patient, a resident or a medical student."
To deliver a baby that I cared for in utero and then to watch them grow has been the most rewarding part of my practice.
"To this point, it has been delivering babies. It's not like medical school, where you don't know them and will likely never see them again. To deliver a baby that you have already cared for in utero and then to watch them grow and succeed has been the most rewarding part of my practice.
I have also enjoyed working with medical students as a rural preceptor and watching them develop into thoughtful, confident physicians. As I move into academic medicine, I expect this to be an even more rewarding part of my career."
My best reward is when I make a personal connection to one of my patients.
"I am passionate about quality improvement and using EHRs (Electronic Health Records) to help us improve quality. I love seeing our numbers when it comes to population health. It is very rewarding to know that I am responsible for screening a larger percentage of my patients for breast or colon cancer.
My best reward is when I make a personal connection to one of my patients. Getting a card in the mail that says, 'You're a great doctor and I'm so glad you're my doctor,' really makes my day."
My greatest reward is when people tell me they like to see me because I listen and I care.
"I love my patients. And my staff. The greatest reward I have is when people tell me they like to see me because I listen and I care. Or when they refer friends or family to me, as it shows they trust me."
My greatest rewards are what I call small miracles.
"My greatest rewards are what I call small miracles. Many residents and students go into medicine with a sense that they have to save the world. After time, the reality begins to hit them that there is very little chance that they are going to be able to accomplish that rather lofty goal. That sense begins to translate into a feeling that they have somehow failed and they will never be the physician they wanted to be, and that they will never be able to help others. They can become jaded and it can become "just a job" that they go to, never realizing the impact they are having on a day-to-day basis.
Let me tell you the story about Ed. Ed was about five years old at the beginning of this story. Ed's family had lost part of their health insurance coverage courtesy of cost-cutting measures by the managed care company with which his dad's company contracted. Ed's father called me one evening because Ed had a rash he had never seen before, and was running a temperature. Dad was rather upset and wanted to call someone he knew. I was no longer their official doctor because of the changes, but he called me nonetheless. I told him to bring Ed in and we'd work out everything else later. One look at Ed and I knew something rather serious was going on. A few phone calls later and we had Ed admitted to the hospital and set up for an emergency bone marrow biopsy. The results were done stat and the news was what I unfortunately had expected: leukemia. A few more phone calls later, Ed was on his way to his initial bout of chemotherapy.
Ed is now the same age as my son, and has finished college. All it took was a little caring and a few phone calls."