A general practitioner, also known as a GP or a primary care physician, is a doctor of medicine focused on treating acute and chronic illnesses. GPs provide a more holistic care to patients, supporting the role of medical specialists. General practitioners play an important role in the medical field because they are often the first to be contacted by patients. Since they are not confined to treating specific parts or organs of the body, they have a wide range of skills that help them treat patients of any age, gender, and with various health problems.
General Practitioners have the widest range of roles among all medical care providers. Their responsibilities encompass the following:
The full range or specific list of roles that general practitioners play may differ based on the country they practice their profession in.
General practitioners should possess certain qualities that will help them become effective in their role. These include:
Requirements for becoming a primary care physician differs based on location.
Asia – In most Asian countries, medical students who wish to become primary care physicians must complete the basic medical degree equivalent to Bachelor of Medicine. In India and Bangladesh, these are Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine and Surgery or Bachelor of Homeopathic Medicine and Surgery. These often take four and a half years up to five years. This should be followed by an internship divided into varying periods spent in different departments. After a satisfactory internship, permanent registration as a Registered General Practitioner follows.
Europe – In Europe, aspiring medical practitioners should complete six years of study followed by three years of working as a junior practitioner; this is the European equivalent of an internship. In some countries, another year of lectures as well as two residency years is also required.
Spain – In Spain, GPs are often hired by the state to work for state-owned community health centers. To become a GP, one has to study medicine for a total of six years and pass the MIR or Medico Interno Residente exam. They also have to complete a 4-year training program focusing on general medicine and general practice. They are also trained in major fields, such as pediatrics, psychology, orthopedics, and gynecology. They then have the choice whether to seek training in ophthalmology, infectious diseases, rheumatology, and other specialties, as long as they complete the whole four-year curriculum.
United Kingdom – Primary care physicians in the UK complete five years of medical school training. They may obtain degrees in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery. After this, they need to complete two years of Foundation Training and three years of GP Specialty Training Program during which they will be trained in bstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, geriatrics, accident and emergency, and psychiatry.
In the United States, general practice and family practice used to refer to the same profession or role. Both used to refer to a medical professional who graduated from medical school and completed the required internship period of one year.
Today, however, family practice is considered as a specialty, for which a physician must complete, on top of basic requirements, a residency focused solely on family medicine. Family doctors now also undergo board certification.
General practitioners, therefore, are medical doctors who have completed the basic professional requirements in becoming a health practitioner without seeking further specialization. Rather than specialize, they seek competence in and play different roles. When positioned in a certain community, a general practitioner would be the community's surgeon, internist, and obstetrician, or whatever medical role is currently needed..