Physicians serve an essential role in our society. They
diagnose and treat sick and injured people through
examinations and tests. They also advise their patients on
such matters as preventative care and personal hygiene.
Doctors can be general practitioners or choose a specialty,
such as internal medicine, cardiology, endocrinology,
neurology, oncology, obstetrics, gynecology, or sports
medicine. Primary care physicians tend to see the same
patients on a regular basis for preventive care and to treat
a variety of ailments. General and family practitioners
emphasize comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages
and for the family as a group.
People who wish to become physicians must have a desire to
help people, be self-motivated, and be able to withstand the
pressures and long hours of medical education and practice.
Physicians must also be emotionally strong and have good
people and communication skills. They must also be able to
relate to their patients as people and work to cure not only
the illness but the person as whole. In general, doctors
should have a high degree of patience and great compassion
for human beings.
A day in the life?
Many physicians work in small private offices or
clinics, with assistance from a staff of nurses and
administrative personnel. Many physicians work long,
irregular hours, and must travel frequently between their
offices and hospitals to care for their patients. Many
physicians are on call, and must therefore deal with patient
concerns either over the phone or at their patients' homes,
and make emergency visits to hospitals or nursing homes.
Being a doctor can be a very physically and mentally trying
occupation, as they must often be the bearers of bad news,
breaking painful news to patients and their families. But it
can also be very rewarding to heal people and continuously
improve human lives.
Education and training
It takes many years of education and training to become
a physician. Typically, three to four years of undergraduate
school and four years of medical school are required, with
three to eight years of internships and residency, depending
on the area of specialty. But there are a few medical schools
that offer combined undergraduate and medical school programs
that last for six years.
Premedical students must complete undergraduate work in
courses such as physics, biology, mathematics, and chemistry.
Medical students spend most of their first two years in
laboratories and classrooms taking courses in anatomy,
biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology,
microbiology, pathology, medical ethics and law. They also
learn to take medical histories, examine patients, and
During the last two years of medical school, students work
with patients under the supervision of licensed physicians in
hospitals and clinics to learn about acute, chronic,
preventive, and rehabilitative care. They make rotations
within internal medicine, family practice, obstetrics and
gynecology, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery in order to
gain experience in various areas and to help determine their
interests and skills.
All medical students must be licensed in order to begin
practicing medicine. Physicians must graduate from an
accredited medical school, pass a licensing examination, and
complete one to seven years of graduate medical education to
obtain licensure. Physicians licensed in one State can
usually get a license to practice in other states with
relative ease. Physicians must be involved in continuous
career education to keep up with medical advances and to best
serve their patients. This will help them respond to the
changing demands of today's rapidly developing health care
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment
of physicians will grow about as fast as the average for all
occupations through the year 2010. Most employment will be
due to the expansion of the health care industry as a whole.
And the growing and aging population will also cause growth
in the demand for physicians. While job prospects may be
better for primary care physicians such as general and family
practitioners and pediatricians, a substantial number of jobs
for specialists will also be created because of the growing
demand for specialty care.
The number of physicians entering the field has begun to
slow, and will likely decline over the next few years.
Opportunities are expected to be best in rural and low-income
areas, because many physicians find these areas unattractive
due to such factors as lower income potential and isolation
from the medical society.
Nursing is the clearest related profession to physicians.
Although the educational demands are less rigorous, the
responsibilities and work duties can be just as demanding.
Nurse practitioners in particular hold related
responsibilities, as they prescribe medicines and play a key
role in patient care. Other related careers include lab
technicians, pharmacology, biology, biochemistry, biophysics,
chiropractor, dentistry, optometrists, physician assistants,
podiatrists, speech-language pathologists and audiologists,