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Career Story: Primary Care Physician In A Large Medical Practice

Primary Care Physician In A Large Medical Practice

Job Title: Physician

Type of Company: I work for a private practice made up of sixty physicians. The majority of us do primary care (as I do) which means seeing people for their physical exams as well as their sick visits. We also have specialists in our practice. If a patient of mine has a particular problem as with their heart I can refer them to our cardiologist.

Education: BS, Biology •• MD

Previous Experience: I was a high school science teacher for 11 years and then decided to pursue my dream of becoming a physician. I had taught advanced placement chemistry and biology and they were excellent preparation for the MCAT exam which I scored quite well on. In order to teach something well, you have to understand it pretty thoroughly!

Job Tasks: I see patients all day long (with a break for lunch) three days a week, with a half day thrown in in the middle. But while I work "part-time," my work week is still about 48 hours in duration.

Most patient visits, with the exception of physicals or "well child" checks, are 15 minutes long. I did 2 specialties -- Internal Medicine, for adults, and Pediatrics -- so I see a mix of children and adults in the course of my day. It can get quite busy, particularly if someone walks in who is very sick with breathing problems or chest pain or something similar. In between patients or at lunch or the end of the day, I have to approve refills for medications, give advice to the nurses or decide if someone needs to be seen or go to the emergency room or be referred to a specialist.

Every 8-10 weeks I do a round at two nearby hospitals seeing newborn babies, spending about four hours in the mornings Saturday to Friday. In the afternoons I come to see patients at the office. Every sixth or seventh weekend, if I am not in the hospital, I see patients in the office for urgent issues on Saturday or Sunday. In the winter it can be both days as things tend to be busier with the flu and with respiratory infections.

The most difficult part of the job is to finish my charting which I often have to do at the end of the day. I have to document what was discussed with the patient, what I found on exam, any pertinent lab work, x-ray or EKG results that I might have read and then what I plan to do for the patient and any medications I prescribed. Our charts are all on the computer so that they are easily accessible at our other offices. I am also able to do my charting from home if I need to. I do what is called primary care and have not sub-specialized. It is beneficial that I can work part-time so that I can be home some with my young children which is something that is important to me. It is a difficult but very rewarding job for me.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of the job is making a hard diagnosis or treating someone and making them well. It is also satisfying to help someone to lose weight and come off a lot of medications because their medical problems have improved with the weight loss. I changed jobs about 2 years ago and the practice I am in now runs very smoothly in comparison. That is essential in a job with so much stress and the need to not make mistakes.

The worst part of the job is having to spend time at the end of the day doing all of my charting. This can take a long time if I have seen 25 patients or so during the day. Sometimes I am able to do some of it as I see patients but I don't like to make patients wait so I end up postponing it 'til later. Also patients don't understand how much time it takes to call them back to answer questions; even if just a few of your 2000 patients have needs it can still be a lot.

Job Tips: You have to really enjoy medicine to pursue it as a career because most physicians do not keep to a 9-5 work day. When choosing a specialty you have to consider the lifestyle, the potential call schedule and the options for part-time work particularly if you expect to have a family. The training may seem like a long road but it does go by quickly and you do reach your goals. Though residency can be rigorous, the work schedule is much more reasonable than it was even a decade ago.

Additional Thoughts: There is a huge array of options in medicine. In addition there are a lot of support services in the medical field if you don't want to go through the rigor of medical training. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners do similar work, work under a physician and generally have better work hours.

In addition, medicine is constantly changing so you are committed to a lifetime of learning to remain current on what is happening in medicine.

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