In general, family practice doctors spend much of their day diagnosing and treating ailments of children and adults. In reality, no two days as a family practice doctor are exactly alike because of the differences in patient personalities and symptoms. However, these doctors do have typical schedules and certain types of activities that they attend to on a regular basis.
The most routine part of a family doctor's typical day is meeting with patients for scheduled visits. A family doctor's office often opens at 8:00 a.m. or 9:00 a.m., with appointments starting at that point. Practices vary in scheduling approaches, with appointment times ranging from 15- to 30-minute increments. During appointments, you may have regular wellness visits, patients presenting with mental or physical symptoms, and follow-up treatment visits.
Doctors also deal with many spontaneous phone calls throughout the day. Requests range from a patient wanting a refill on a prescription or seeking basic medical advice to a pharmacy following up on a prescription or refill. Typically, a receptionist takes a message until the doctor is available or gives the phone to a nurse or physician's assistant. As the physician, you may either return calls between appointments or relay messages to the nurse or receptionist to respond.
Another between-appointment task for a family doctor is reviewing tests or images. Some patients come in for basic lab work or for specific tests related to illnesses. After a review of lab results, the doctor or nurse often calls the patient with information. Other times, they review the recent test results of a patient prior to an appointment so they can prepare for a discussion or make treatment recommendations.
Before and After
While the official day at a family practice often runs from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., a doctor's day often kicks-off when the alarm sounds around 6:00 in the morning. Doctors, especially in a busy practice, often arrive early to review the day's patients or to spend time reading recent journals and current medical news. Often, doctors spend an hour or two after close reviewing the day's patients and updating records. Some family doctors also spend time on-call at local hospitals after hours.
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.