What does a Physician (Doctor) do?

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A physician (also called a medical practitioner or doctor) cares for patients in a variety of ways. A doctor’s primary responsibility is the well being of their patients. At times it can very stressful due to treating patients with life-threatening injuries or chronic illnesses. Doctors include anesthesiologists, family and general practitioners, internists, obstetricians and gynecologists, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and surgeons.

How to Become a Physician


Doctors are categorized into two: medical doctors (M.D.) and doctors of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). Each of these two categories of doctors provides treatment to patients. However, the D.O.s also make use of preventive medicine and holistic care treatment techniques. Medical doctors frequently go for specialization at the end of their regular training.

Being a doctor is very rewarding given the roles doctors play in the improvement of people’s health and life. The educational requirement to how to become a doctor is quite extensive. It is also costly to train as a medical doctor. The financial prospect of being a doctor is very high particularly if you hope to work in a private practice. However, being a doctor involves a lot of stress so you must also be emotionally stable to be able to practice as a doctor.

To become a physician you must earn a bachelor’s degree. Most earn a bachelor’s in biology in chemistry to prepare you for medical school and to earn the courses needed to apply. Listed are example courses you would complete before you’ll be admitted into the medical school:

  • Biology with a lab
  • Chemistry with a lab
  • Organic Chemistry with a lab
  • Biochemistry
  • Calculus
  • Statistics
  • Physics with a lab
  • Humanities courses

Next, you would attend 4 years of medical school, and depending on the area you want to specialize, have 3-7 years of additional training in a residency program. Medical schools do not have a specific bachelor’s degree requirement, but many pursue undergraduate work in biology, chemistry, physics, math, and English. In addition, it is highly encouraged that you volunteer in a medical setting such as a hospital or clinic to gain experience in a healthcare setting while pursuing your degree.

Medical schools are highly competitive so it is important to gain experience and do well academically. You are also required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to get into Medical School. Medical schools do not only weigh this exam to get admittance into their medical program, but they also consider an applicant’s personality, leadership qualities, and participation in extracurricular activities. Therefore, it is pertinent that you volunteer and participate in extracurricular activities while in high school and your undergraduate degree program.

Check out the article how to become a doctor for a step-by-step guide of the entire process to become a doctor.

Job Description of a Physician

A physician’s primary duties include providing preventive treatment, evaluating clients, diagnosing their issues, and coming up with a treatment plan. They also educate patients on medical conditions and preventative care when possible. Primary physicians focus on all areas of practice, however, some physicians specialize in different areas such as heart, skin, digestive systems, bone, and allergies (in addition to many other medical areas).

Physicians work with a team on medical professionals and staff, but are considered the decision-makers and leaders in guiding their team in a patient’s care and treatment. They work long, extended, and irregular hours. Many own their own practices, but in a more recent trend you see groups of practitioners sharing office space and equipment and many others work in hospitals, inpatient, or outpatient centers. With the growing age and longevity of Americans there will be a faster than average growth in opportunities for those wanting to enter the medical field as a physician. Though keep in mind it is a large commitment in time, money, and education. However, it can be very rewarding once you are working as a doctor.

Family Medicine Physicians Video Transcript

Many physicians choose to specialize in a particular patient group or area of the body… but family and general practitioners work with patients of all ages and a broad range of conditions: from delivering babies and providing check-ups for school-age kids, to caring for older adults with chronic conditions. Family doctors— also called general practitioners or GPs— work in settings such as physicians’ offices and hospitals where they see patients for acute care and general health maintenance. They diagnose injuries, prescribe treatments, order tests, and interpret test results.

Communication skills are essential in this field, as family doctors need to explain potentially anxiety-producing procedures and discuss test results with patients. Some GPs have surgical skills and perform procedures such as biopsies and vasectomies. In more rural areas, family practitioners have even broader duties, ranging from removing an appendix to delivering babies via C-section. They sometimes care for their patients when they are in the hospital. GPs frequently consult with other doctors, and refer patients to specialists when needed. Family practice doctors complete four years of college, four years of medical school, then a three-year residency in family medicine. Those who continue into specialty fields may train for an additional one to three years.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicians and Surgeons.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1062.00. O*NET OnLine.

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