General practitioners are trained to provide comprehensive medical care to patients of all ages - as primary care providers, these doctors can care for a wide range of disorders, referring patients when necessary.

Choosing Your Primary Care Provider

About General Practice

General practitioners draw on their vast educational training and experiences to provide both continuing and comprehensive care to patients of all ages and in all stages of life, addressing a wide range of disorders and complications. The care provided by in general practice is comparable to that of family medicine. General practitioners are typically the first doctor a patient sees when they are unsure of their condition, or have a common illness or ailment. To that extent, general practitioners are capable of providing a very wide range of treatments, with the most common being the prescription of medications.

General practice typically encompasses a three pronged approach, taking into account the use of knowledge, skills, and process when caring for patients. General practitioners employ a skillful integration of clinical, biological and behavioral sciences in their practices, incorporating all aspects of their patients’ lives during treatment. General practitioners will often refer patients to specialists when their condition requires a more specialized approach or is outside the realm of their expertise – in this regard, general practitioners are said to serve as the gatekeepers of the medical community.

General Practice Education & Training

The training and education required to become a general practitioner is typically comprised of at least 10 years of post-secondary study. After earning a bachelor’s degree in pre-medical or similar studies, the student must then graduate from an accredited medical school with an MD or DO degree. Following graduation from medical school, the physician will typically enter into a family medicine residency, which lasts approximately three years.

During the residency, the physician will gain the practical, hands-on training required to diagnose and treat patients for a variety of different illnesses while under the supervision of experienced physicians. Some physicians who identify as general practitioners may have completed residency training in other areas, such as internal medicine.

After completing the residency and having passed all parts of the medical licensing exam, the physician is able to start practicing medicine as a general practitioner. Many general practitioners will seek board certification from the American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) or the American Board of Internal Medicine, depending upon the education and training they have completed. Additionally, general practitioners who have completed supplemental residency training may choose to pursue Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs) from the ABFM in subspecialties such as sports medicine, geriatrics, sleep medicine, hospice care, adolescent medicine and palliative care.