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Career Story: Family Physician

Family Physician

Job Title: Family Physician

Type of Company: I am an employee of a company that seeks to provide medical help to people who do not have insurance.

Education: BS, Biology, Bethel University •• MD, University of Minnesota

Previous Experience: I needed to have experience in the medical field in order to be accepted into medical school so I worked as a tech for heart monitors in a hospital for about a year before med school.

Job Tasks: I arrive each day at about 7:30. Our charts are on the computer, so I log in and check any blood test results, answer any questions that patients called in with the ay before and write prescriptions for medications that patients will need before their next scheduled visit. Patients start arriving at 8AM. My nurse puts the patient I am scheduled to see in a room and takes his blood pressure. Then I go into the room, talk to the patient and examine him (or her), and we discuss a plan to deal with the medical problem. It usually involves prescriptions or tests, which I order before the patient departs. Then I write a note based on our conversation and my exam. The writing of the notes usually takes a while; they need to be in a very specific form so that other physicians can read them and understand what happened at the visit. The note also is what would be brought up at a trial if I got sued.

I usually spend my lunch hour working on those notes. During the day, people often call in and ask for appointments that day or the next day. If there is room in the schedule, the front desk usually fills the spaces. If not, my nurse usually calls the patient back and asks what the symptoms are to help the patient decide if he should go to the ER or not. Most of my patients come to follow up on chronic medical problems like high blood pressure or diabetes; they feel fine when they come in and we talk about what their blood pressure is doing or what their blood test results are. I usually leave the office between 5 and 6.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my work is that I get to talk to people for a living. I get to work with people who are at a place in life where they want to make changes. I am trusted. I have the option of working part-time (and have chosen it: I work about 25 hours a week).

The worst part of my job is behind me, thank God: my medical residency I worked 60-80 hours a week for three years after medical school, a required part of becoming a board-certified physician. Those hours included 30 hour shifts and working on weekends. (I probably had 1 weekend off per month). I had some choice in where I wanted to do a residency, but the residency assignments, once made, were final and I ended up in Iowa, which was about my sixth choice. I was doing residency at an age when I wanted to be having babies, in my late 20's. I could have had a baby and would have gotten six weeks maternity leave. But then going back to work 60 hours a week didn't sound fun to me when the baby wouldn't be sleeping through the night yet. So I waited. I'm 34 and my first child is one year old.

I finished medical school in 2003 with $125,000 of debt.

Job Tips:
1. Take science classes in college: biology, histology, biochemistry. Some are pre-requisites for medical school, some not.

2. Think long and hard about your dreams for the rest of your life: family, where you want to live...

3. If you have a significant other, have a long conversation about what your lifestyle will be like during residency (medical school is actually much easier than residency). You will not be home much. If you are single, you may end up marrying someone from medical school; many from my class did (and I was one of them).

Additional Thoughts: Think about your financial situation. Medical school tuition has risen dramatically in the last 10 years. Right now, I make enough money to pay off my debt. However, with potential big changes coming in health care in the US, I think doctors will make a lot less money than they do now and it will be much harder to pay off school debt.

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