The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






General practitioner

A general practitioner (GP) or family physician (FP) is a physician who provides primary care. A GP/FP treats acute and chronic illnesses, provides preventive care and health education for all ages and both sexes. Some also care for hospitalized patients, do minor surgery and/or obstetrics. The term family doctor is also common in the United Kingdom, since there the word "physician" has a more specialist meaning.



In the United States, a General Practitioner has completed a one year internship required to obtain a medical license. A Family Practice physician has completed a 3 year medical residency and is eligible for board certification now required by most hospitals in order to attend patients requiring admission.

A Family Physician is board-certified in Family Practice. Training is focused on treating an individual throughout their life stages. Family physicians complete medical school and 3 more years of specialized medical residency training in Family Practice. Board Certified Family Physicians retake a board-like exam every 6-7 years to remain certified. The American Board of Family Practice, as well as other specialty boards, are requiring additional participation in continuous learning and self-assessment to enhance clinical knowledge, expertise, and skills. The Board has created a program called the Maintenance of Certification Program for Family Physicians (MC-FP) which will require family physicians to continuously demonstrate proficiency in four areas of clinical practice: professionalism, self assessment/lifelong learning, cognitive expertise and performance in practice. Certificates of Added Qualifications (CAQs) in Adolescent Medicine , Geriatric Medicine, or Sports Medicine are available for those physicians who meet additional training requirements.


In the United Kingdom, doctors wishing to become GPs take at least 4 years training after medical school:

  • one year as a house officer (PRHO) (formerly called a houseman);
  • two years as a senior house officer (SHO) - often on a General Practice Vocational Training Scheme (GP-VTS);
  • one year as a general practice registrar.

After passing an exam they are awarded a specialist qualification of MRCGP – Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners . General practitioners are not required to hold the MRCGP, but it is considered desirable. In addition, many hold qualifications such as the MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians) and/or the DRCOG (Diploma of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists ).

There are many arrangements under which general practitioners can work in the UK. While the main career aim is becoming a principal of a GP surgery, many become salaried or non-principal GPs, work in hospitals in GP-led acute care units, or perform locum work.


In France, the médecin généraliste (commonly called docteur) is responsible for the long term care in a population. This implies prevention, education, care of the diseases and traumas that do not require a specialist, and orientation towards a specialist when necessary. They also follow the severe diseases day-to-day (between the acute crises that require the intervention of a specialist).

They have a role in the survey of epidemics, a legal role (constatation of traumas that can bring compensation, certificates for the practice of a sport, death certificate, certificate for hospitalisation without consent in case of mental incapacity), and a role in the emergency care (they can be called by the samu, the French EMS). They often go to a patient's home when the patient cannot come to the consulting room (especially in case of children or old people), and have to contribute to a night and week-end duty (although this was contested in a strike in 2002).

The studies consist of six years in the university (common to all medical specialties), and two years and a half as a junior practitioner (interne) :

  • the first year is common with the dentists and the midwives; the rank at the final examination determines in which branch the student can go on;
  • the following two years, called propédeutique, are dedicated to the fundamental sciences: anatomy, human physiology, biochemistry, bacteriology, statistics...
  • the three following years are called externat and are dedicated to the study of clinical medicine ; they end with a classifying examination, the rank determines in which specialty (the general medicine is one of them) the student can make his internat;
  • the internat is two years and a half of initial professional experience under the responsibility of a senior; the interne can prescribe, he can make replace physicians, and usually works in an hospital.

This ends with a doctorate, a research work which usually consist of a statistical study of cases to propose a care strategy of a specific affection (in an epidemiological, diagnostical, or therapeutical point of view).

External Links

  • American Board of Family Practice
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • GPs’ Qualification Royal College of General Practitioners RCGP UK

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Last updated: 02-11-2005 06:20:51
Last updated: 04-25-2005 03:06:01