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Family Medicine
Training Information
Specialty Description

What is a family physician?

Family physicians deliver a range of acute, chronic, and preventive medical care services. In addition to diagnosing and treating illness, they also provide preventive care, including routine checkups, health risk assessments, immunization and screening tests, and personalized counseling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Family physicians also manage chronic illness, often coordinating care provided by other subspecialists.

What does a family physician do?

Family physicians are personal doctors for people of all ages and health conditions. They are a reliable first contact for health concerns and directly address most health care needs. Through enduring partnerships, family physicians help patients prevent, understand, and manage illness, navigate the health system and set health goals. Family physicians and their staff adapt their care to the unique needs of their patients and communities. They use data to monitor and manage their patient population, and use best science to prioritize services most likely to benefit health. They are ideal leaders of health care systems and partners for public health.

Family physicians frequently cite their specialty as a rewarding one that allows them to maintain “life

balance” while also managing a schedule that’s busy enough to accommodate patients with an array of needs. Recent practice profile surveys conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) revealed that family physicians:

  • Spend 34 hours per week in direct patient care (13 on prior authorization and other patient care tasks)

  • Work an average 47 weeks per year in patient- related or profession activities

  • See an average of 78 patients per week in office-based visits (8 in other settings)

  • Have an average of five weeks for vacation or continuing medical education (CME) activities per year

Family medicine offers a degree of flexibility that many other medical specialties do not. Because family physicians are needed in every part of the country, they have the option to choose their practice location and work in both urban and rural settings, to pick their practice environment and scope of practice, and to pursue different career paths, such as public health, teaching and research. There is a multitude of fellowship options for family medicine, with some of the most popular including sports medicine and maternity care. With options such as flexible scheduling and part-time practice, raising a family is quite manageable and rewarding.

How much do family physicians make?

Income typically varies by region, years in practice and type of practice. Practice profile surveys conducted by the AAFP show that family physicians earn (on average) more than $190,000. In some areas (especially rural settings), those who practice maternity care can expect to earn an average of $5,000-$10,000 more in net income. Income also depends on whether the physician works in a solo, small group, or multispecialty practice, or direct primary care. Depending upon the region of the country in which a family physician chooses to practice, certain office visits and procedures are also rewarded more highly.

How to become a family physician?

Specialty training required prior to certification: Three years