What Is the Difference Between Internal Medicine & Family Practice Doctors?

May 30, 2020

Comparing Internal Medicine Doctors to Family Practice Doctors

The general duties of internal medicine doctors and family practice doctors can be very similar. They have different training in their residencies and different advancement options. Internal medicine doctors also earn a higher salary.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Internal Medicine Doctors Medical degree; residency $201,440 4% (internists, general)
Family Practice Doctors Medical degree; residency $213,270 10% (family and general practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Internal Medicine Doctors vs. Family Practice Doctors

Internal medicine doctors see patients, identify their medical condition and decide how to treat them. Family practice doctors also perform those same tasks for their patients. Both internal medicine doctors and family practice doctors may see patients for all different types of medical issues and both of these doctors will send patients to specialists when necessary. One of the distinctions is that family medicine doctors are trained to provide prenatal care and may also deliver babies. They also focus on treating the same patients throughout the patient's life so they build long-term relationships with their patients and have extensive knowledge of their medical history.

Internal Medicine Doctors

Internal medicine doctors are also known as internists and typically work in hospitals and medical offices. They are on the front lines of health care and see patients with any ailments. Their hours can vary based on the number of hours they spend in office and the number that they spend on rotation or on call at hospitals, but it is common for them to work 50 hours per week or more. Since they work with a wide range of patients that they may treat over a number of years they should have good people skills and the ability to communicate effectively with people of all ages. They also need good problem-solving skills so that they can determine the medical conditions affecting their patients. Some may opt to complete a fellowship and specialize in fields such as rheumatology.

Job responsibilities of an internal medicine doctor include:

  • Evaluating patients
  • Ordering medical tests
  • Reviewing test results
  • Referring patients to specialists
  • Writing prescriptions for medication
  • Updating medical records

Family Practice Doctors

In order to become a family practice doctor a residency in family medicine must be completed after earning a medical degree. Family practice doctors provide primary medical care to their patients. One of the benefits of seeing a family practice doctor is that they can focus on your health care over the course of your life. It's common for family practice doctors to work in medical offices or clinics with extended hours so that they can accommodate their patients and while some work independently in their own office, others work with a number of specialists in a shared facility so that they have specialists on site that they can refer their patients to. Although family practice doctors can see patients for any type of medical condition, some may focus on a particular area, such as treating patients who are pregnant. Compassion and interpersonal skills are important in this field of medicine since they often focus on treating the needs of the same patients over the course of their lives and need to build an effective relationship with recurring patients.

Job responsibilities of a family practice doctor include:

  • Documenting medical data about their patients
  • Assessing the patient's condition
  • Sending patients for medical tests
  • Educating patients about their health or condition
  • Providing patients with prescriptions for medication
  • Sending patients to specialists when necessary

Related Careers

If a career as an internal medicine doctor or a family medicine doctor sounds appealing, you may also want to use the links listed here to explore the work that pediatricians and physician assistants do. These medical professionals perform some of the same duties as internal medicine doctors and family practice doctors.

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