The Duties & Responsibilities of Doctors

Doctors treat and prevent diseases.
i Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
Doctors treat and prevent diseases.

Traits that help physicians include being nurturing, decisive, analytical and cool-headed. As a doctor, you would have a lot on your plate including taking medical histories, diagnosing patients and prescribing medications. It's a challenging job that offers a lot of gratification when you change people's lives. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a median annual income of $202,392 for general practice physicians as of 2010, with specialty physicians making significantly more, with a median income of $356,885 per year.

Diagnostic Assessment

Doctors begin the diagnostic process by interviewing the patient and reviewing his medical history. If the symptoms suggest more than one possible diagnosis, physicians typically order laboratory tests and review the results to determine what's wrong and how to make the patient feel better.


Once you decide what's wrong with your patients, you have to make them feel better. Depending on your specialty, you might go about this in different ways including prescribing medications, performing surgery, stitching a wound, delivering a baby or referring to another type of professional if your patient's problems aren't medical in origin. Once treatment is initiated, you have to monitor the patient's progress, assessing for side effects and benefits, adjusting your treatment as necessary to get the best possible result.


It doesn't matter if you are the smartest doctor on Earth, if you can't explain things in a way your patients can understand, you won't be very effective. As a doctor, you have to explain to your patients, in layperson's terms, what you think is causing the problem; answer any questions or concerns they might have; and explain treatment options, including possible benefits and side effects of the treatment you are recommending. Additionally, you have to answer any of their questions and calm their fears.

Non-Clinical Duties

Many physicians don't see patients at all. Instead they conduct research, consult with private industry, nonprofit organizations or the government or teach students. Junior professors in oncology at Harvard Medical School, for example, conduct extensive research studies in an area of specialty, publish results in professional academic journals such as "Journal of the American Medical Association," develop practice guidelines, teach classes and advise students. Physician consultants working for health insurance companies analyze trends, review patient charts and advise doctors as to their treatment progress.

2016 Salary Information for Physicians and Surgeons

Physicians and surgeons earned a median annual salary of $204,950 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, physicians and surgeons earned a 25th percentile salary of $131,980, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $261,170, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 713,800 people were employed in the U.S. as physicians and surgeons.

the nest