What is Family Practice and Family Medicine?
By definition, family practice is the medical specialty concerned with the total health care of the individual and the family. It is the specialty of breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family practice is not limited by the patient's age or sex, organ system, or disease entity. Family medicine is the unique academic discipline for the specialty. It is emerging as a body of knowledge that is being continuously developed, researched and taught as an integrative entity. While family practice follows the general practice tradition, it has major differences from general practice. Family practice residencies developed in response to a perceived need by the public, the medical profession and the government for well-trained generalists. In addition to receiving broad hospital training, family practice residents receive extensive training in comprehensive and continuous outpatient medicine for persons of all ages. As a specialty, family practice has stringent requirements for continuing medical education, board certification and board recertification every seven years. Family practice was the first practice to require recertification.
What is the Scope of Family Medicine?
The scope of family practice covers a wide spectrum. At one end are family physicians who may be the only local source of health care for their community. Besides maintaining an office practice, they perform surgery, care for the seriously ill in hospital critical care units, handle major trauma cases, stabilize patients for transport if necessary, staff a hospital and deliver babies, including performing cesarean sections. Family physicians with this type of practice are common in rural areas. At the other end of the spectrum are family physicians who limit their care to office practice and coordinate comprehensive care for their patients in a multi-specialty group.