Primary care physicians provide routine and preventive health care to patients. They treat common ailments, such as colds and the flu, and help manage chronic conditions like diabetes or asthma.
Primary care physicians typically spend a lot of time with their patients. In some cases, they may be the only doctor a patient sees. They often coordinate a patient’s overall health care by communicating with specialists who provide more advanced treatments. A primary care physician must be able to establish a rapport with patients quickly. A primary care physician must also be knowledgeable about the latest medical treatments, drug interactions, and preventative measures.
Primary care physicians work in a variety of settings, including private practices, clinics, hospitals, and universities.
Primary Care Physician Job Duties
This job description for a primary care physician includes the following duties
- Providing high-quality healthcare to patients, including listening to and properly diagnosing patients’ medical concerns and ailments
- Conducting initial assessments of patients to learn about their medical history, their health goals, and any potential health risks
- Provide diagnostic and therapeutic services for acute and chronic conditions
- Ordering lab tests and imaging studies, prescribing medications, and providing other treatment modalities such as physical therapy or massage therapy
- Performing basic and advanced surgical procedures when necessary, such as removing polyps or tumors from patients’ vocal cords or performing hip replacements
- Diagnosing illnesses through physical examinations, medical tests, and analysis of patient histories
- Prescribe medications, treatments, diets, or other care plans to maintain health or alleviate symptoms of disease or injury
- Refer patients to specialists when needed for further diagnosis or treatment
Primary Care Physician Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for primary care physicians is $157,896. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practices, and the highest earners are making over $341,000 per year.
The employment of primary care physicians is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to the growing number of nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can perform the same duties with less training, as well as the rising cost of medical school debt.
Primary Care Physician Job Requirements
The requirements for primary care physicians are as follows:
Education: All physicians must earn a medical degree from an accredited medical school. Most physicians earn their medical degree after completing a four-year undergraduate program in a science-related field.
Training: Primary care physicians complete a rotating internship and residency program, where physicians learn in a hands-on environment under the supervision of a seasoned physician. In this program, physicians will gain experience in a variety of specialties, including pediatrics, internal medicine, and surgery. Primary care physicians may also receive training through continuing education courses, seminars and conferences.
Certifications & Licenses: Primary care physicians must obtain a license to practice medicine. This license must be renewed every few years and requires a physician to pass a state-administered exam.
Primary Care Physician Skills
The following skills are required for this job:
Lateral thinking: A lateral thinker can recognize patterns in seemingly unrelated situations and come up with solutions to unusual problems.
Critical thinking skills: A doctor must be able to analyze information, recognize patterns, and come up with solutions that meet his or her patients’ needs.
Teamwork skills: A doctor must work well with other members of the healthcare team, including nurses, medical assistants, specialists, therapists, and other doctors.
Patience: A doctor must have patience when working with his or her patients. For example, he or she might need to spend extra time explaining treatment options to a patient who is not familiar with the healthcare system.
Communication skills: A doctor must be able to clearly communicate instructions and procedures to patients and other members of the healthcare team. He or she should also be able to listen well to his or her patients’ concerns and respond appropriately.
Ability to prioritize tasks: A doctor must be able to prioritize tasks quickly and accurately so that all patients receive the attention they need at the right time.
Primary Care Physician Work Environment
Most primary care physicians work in a private office, hospital, or outpatient center. They usually spend most of their time conducting patient exams and filling out paperwork, such as treatment plans and billing forms. Their work environment can be hectic as they deal with sick people who may have problems communicating their symptoms. They often help patients cope with stressful situations.
They usually have flexible schedules, and most work during regular business hours, Monday through Friday. Depending on the job setting, they may occasionally work weekend or evening hours.
Primary Care Physician Career Advancement
If you are a primary care physician with a few years of experience, you may be given the opportunity to be a subspecialist. Subspecialties are even more specialized subfields of medicine. For example, a cardiologist is a subspecialist in the field of heart care.
Subspecialists are responsible for evaluating, diagnosing, and treating patients with a specific disease or condition. They can also work in research or teach at a university. Subspecialists have the opportunity to work in nearly every area of medicine.
Primary Care Physician Trends
Here are three trends influencing how primary care physicians work. Primary care physicians will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Changing Role of the Primary Care Physician
In the future, patients will increasingly be responsible for a larger percentage of their healthcare costs and will be more informed about these costs before seeking treatment.
This has led to a change in the role of primary care physicians from traditional gatekeepers who provide access to specialty care to “accountable care managers” who help coordinate patient care, reduce costs, and improve health outcomes.
Rise of Telemedicine
A rise in technology-based healthcare services is making it easier for patients to access doctors without visiting their offices.
Telemedicine, which uses videoconferencing and other digital tools to connect patients with doctors over long distances, is particularly useful for individuals who live in rural areas or are unable to leave their homes for medical appointments.
While telemedicine does not replace the need for traditional doctor visits, it has become an important tool for increasing patient access to medical care in recent years.
Increased Importance of Non-Traditional Treatments
As people begin to look for alternative ways to treat their health problems, primary care physicians will have to find new ways to integrate these non-traditional methods into their treatment plans.
Non-traditional treatments include services like acupuncture and massage therapy, which are becoming more popular among patients seeking relief from chronic pain.
How to Become a Primary Care Physician
1. Planning Your Career Path
When considering a career as a primary care physician, it is important to think about what kind of work environment you want to be in. The hours can be long and the workload can be stressful, so make sure that your job choice aligns with your lifestyle preferences.
Many physicians choose to specialize in a particular area of medicine, but some enjoy being generalists who are responsible for taking care of patients from all walks of life. If you have a passion for helping people from different backgrounds, consider specializing in family medicine or internal medicine; these specialties allow doctors to treat people of all ages and with various medical conditions.
2. Writing a Resume
Resumes for primary care physicians should focus on the applicant’s medical knowledge, patient-focused approach to medicine, and willingness to learn new skills. It is important for people who want to be primary care physicians to show passion for patient care, so emphasize this on your resume. Primary care physicians are often called on to provide medical advice and treatment, so it’s also important that your resume highlights your ability to communicate effectively.
It’s important to include your experience in your field, but also how it relates specifically to the job opening. You should list any medical certifications or associations you are part of. Listing advanced degrees will provide an extra level of qualification to your application. Emphasize any research papers, journal articles, or presentations that you have given at seminars or conferences.
3. Applying for Jobs
There are a number of ways to find a job as a primary care physician. The best option is to attend a seminar, conference, or meetup related to the field of medicine. Talk to people at these events and learn more about their experience in the industry. They will be able to tell you which hospitals or clinics are hiring and which ones aren’t. Another option is to join a professional organization related to the medical field. This will give you access to online forums where you can share information with others who work in the same field. You can also read industry-related blogs and publications that may have job listings. Finally, there are recruiters who specialize in hiring for medical jobs.
4. Ace the Interview
If the interview is for the primary care physician position, you’ll be asked about your work history and your educational history. If you are already an established physician, you will be asked about your specialty. Be sure to emphasize your strengths and skills and be prepared to discuss how you can handle both administrative and clinical tasks.
Health care is increasingly regarded as more of an art than a science, so the interviewer will want to know that you have strong communication skills and can address patients’ concerns in an empathetic way. The interviewer may want to discuss what kind of health care philosophy you have as well as how you would handle difficult situations with patients.