Physicians and surgeons are responsible for diagnosing illnesses and prescribing as well as administering treatment for patients suffering from disease or illness. They also examine patients in addition to obtaining medical histories. Other job responsibilities include ordering, performing and interpreting diagnostic tests in addition to counseling patients regarding preventive healthcare, hygiene and diet.
Physician and Surgeon Job Responsibilities
There are two different types of physicians; M.D.s and D.O.s or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine. Both types of physicians use a variety of different methods of treatment, which includes surgery and drugs. D.O.s emphasize preventive medicine, the musculoskeletal system and holistic patient care. They tend to act as primary care specialists. Approximately half practice family or general medicine.
Physicians may work in a number of different specialties including general and family medicine, anesthesiology, general medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, general pediatrics, surgery and psychiatry.
Anesthesiologists focus on pain relief and the care of patients in surgery. Like other types of physicians, they also treat and evaluate patients as well as direct the efforts of staff. Through continual assessment and monitoring, they are responsible for maintaining the vital life functions of patients, including body temperature, heart rate, breathing and blood pressure during surgery. They may also perform work outside of the surgery, including the provision of pain relief while patients are in the intensive care unit, for patients with chronic pain and during labor and delivery.
General and family physicians offer the first point of contact for patients seeking healthcare. They assess as well as treat a number of different conditions. They often have a base that consists of regular, long-term patients. They typically refer patients who have more serious health conditions to specialists.
A general internist will diagnose as well as provide non-surgical treatment for a variety of problems that involve internal organ systems including the kidneys, stomach, digestive tract and liver. They utilize many different diagnostic techniques. They may also work as primary care specialists and refer patients to specialists as needed.
General pediatricians are responsible for the care of infants as well as children, teens and even young adults. They specialize in diagnosing and treating many different ailments while also tracking growth. In the course of providing care, they usually work with other healthcare workers, including other physicians and nurses.
Obstetricians and gynecologists specialize in the health of women. In addition to providing general health care, they may also provide care that is related to reproductive health and pregnancy. OB/GYNs usually specialize in childbirth which can include providing prenatal diagnoses as well as delivery and postpartum care.
Psychiatrists are primary providers of mental healthcare. They assess as well as treat mental illnesses through the use of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, hospitalization and medication.
Surgeons specialize in providing treatment for injury, deformity and disease through surgical operations. They use a variety of different instruments. Some surgeons may perform general surgery, although others may specialize in a specific surgical area.
Most physicians work in a clinic or small private office and may be assisted by a staff of administrative personnel and nurses. Physicians typically work hours that are long and irregular. Nearly half work at least 50 hours per week, if not more.
Physician and Surgeon Training and Education Requirements
Eight years of education beyond high school is required to become a practicing physician, along with another three to eight years of internship and residency. In all states as well as the District of Columbia and all U.S. territories, physicians are required to be licensed. Education requirements include four years of undergraduate school as well as four years of medical school and up to eight years of internship and residency. Acceptance to medical school is typically extremely competitive. Applicants usually must submit transcripts as well as Medical College Admission Test scores and letters of recommendation.
Physician and Surgeon Salary and Wages
The earnings for physicians and surgeons tend to be the highest of all occupations. The median total earnings for physicians can vary based on specific type of practice. Those practicing primary care have a median annual salary of $186,044. Physicians that practice in specialty areas have a median annual salary of $339,738. Self-employed physicians usually have higher compensation than other physicians. Earnings can vary based on the number of years practicing as well as hours worked, geographic region, skill and professional reputation.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Physician and Surgeon Certification
Physicians are required in all states, territories and the District of Columbia to be licensed. This includes passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination. To be eligible to take this exam, physicians are required to graduate from an accredited medical school.
Those interested in obtaining board certification in a specialty may spend as many as seven years in residency training. A final exam immediately following residency or up to two years of practice may also be required for certification by the member board of the American Board of Medical Specialists.
Physician and Surgeon Professional Associations
Professional associations for physicians and surgeons include the following:
- American Medical Association
- American Osteopathic Association
- American Academy of Family Physicians
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
- American Psychiatric Association
- American Society of Anesthesiologists