A 2017 post written by a student member of the AAFP Board of Directors offers a fascinating look into the world of medical students who choose family medicine as their specialty. According to author Lauren Abdul-Majeed, the choice to pursue family medicine is often met with a full range of emotions from bewilderment to consternation. Most medical students just do not understand the choice.
Let’s face it, family medicine jobs don’t have the allure they once had way back when doctors couldn’t wait to finish their residencies so that they could open a private practice. Abdul-Majeed pointed out in her piece that common misconceptions of family medicine can sometimes dissuade very talented doctors from entering what can be a very promising field.
Yes, there are still a lot of great reasons for choosing family medicine. There are very valid reasons for being a family medicine hospitalist, a private practice owner, or even a family medicine locum.
One of the criticisms of family medicine mentioned by Abdul-Majeed is the mistaken notion that doctors are wasting their talents on this specialty by not making themselves available to deal with the more complex cases found in other specialties. And yet, reality says otherwise.
Some of the most complex cases in all of medicine present themselves in the family practitioner’s office. It stands to reason, given our current medical system that requires most patients to get a referral from a primary care physician before seeing a specialist. Most of the complex cases that end up in the specialist’s office were first seen by a family medicine practitioner.
Stronger Patient Relationships
Many a family medicine doctor has remarked positively about strong relationships with their patients. Because these very talented doctors see their patients more often, they get to know them more personally. They also get to treat other members of the family as well.
It is not abnormal for a career family medicine doctor to treat multiple generations of the same family over years of practice. The obvious exception here are locum tenens family doctors.
As for other specialties, doctors may see a person a few times and then never again. This is not to say they cannot develop strong relationships with their patients, but just to say that such relationships are the exception rather than the rule.
Meeting a Genuine Need
There are certainly shortages throughout the medical field and in every corner of the country. The industry is in desperate need of family practitioners, internists, rheumatologists, etc. The industry is in desperate need of nurses and nurse practitioners too. But you could make the case that the most profound need is in the area of family medicine.
There are entire portions of the country – mostly rural – without any access to family medicine at all. Folks living in these communities sometimes have to drive 50 miles or more just to see a doctor. The need is real, and doctors willing to meet that need also reap the rewards of doing so.
It used to be that family medicine was one of the most revered specialties a new doctor could choose. Somewhere along the way it has lost its prestige. Perhaps it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s time to start rebuilding family medicine so as to return it to its former prominence.
As for you, what are your thoughts on family medicine? There are plenty of family medicine jobs out there to be had. Landing one only takes a willingness to be part of a specialty that will not necessarily make you a rock star in the medical community.