The One with the Family Med Recap

The past six weeks have absolutely flown by, though arguably not as quickly as my recent three day “golden weekend,” which included catching up on television, exchanging stories with classmates on other rotations, and apple picking with friends from college. Regardless, I am finished with family medicine, and for my sake (and yours), it’s time to summarize my thoughts on the rotation (even though I still have a few family med stories to blog about in days to come).

First things first: I loved this rotation. But I suppose there’s a caveat to that: I had the best preceptor I could possibly ask for, and she really felt like she could be me in twenty years. She graduated from the same med school, shares my love for ice hockey and trying new recipes, juggles ridiculous numbers of side projects that include medical advocacy (one of my passions), and even shares my lightning multiple choice test taking speed. We occasionally would stay later than we intended, just chatting about life. As a former educator, she was a fantastic teacher of medicine, but she also taught me lifestyle tips, both for my career and life in general (like putting your kids to sleep in their clothes to save the morning battles… brilliant!).

Add in the fact that I never had to work Fridays and I felt like I had won the family medicine lottery. So, of course I loved this rotation. How could I not?

The question becomes: “Could I do family medicine as a career?”

My immediate answer? Maybe.

I always knew I liked working with kids. But this rotation, I realized I really enjoy working with the adult and geriatric populations as well. At this point, I can’t imagine not seeing one of those populations for the rest of my career, so FM is a logical choice to provide balance.

But realistically, the things that draw me to family medicine would be factors of primary care in general:

-I’m good at planning and coordinating; primary care physicians are often the quarterbacks of a patient’s medical team, making sure consults communicate appropriately and that all bases are covered.

-I enjoy the breadth of diagnoses that walk through the door; in one day of Family Med, you can see prenatal care, followed by hypertension follow-up, followed by a well child check, followed by new onset chest pain.

-Primary care docs are constantly being challenged by a new presentation, but if it’s really complicated, they can phone friends from any number of medical specialties.

-Primary care allows you to get to know your patients (and potentially their families) really well. (If my patients love me half as much as my preceptor’s love her, I’ll call that a success.) These relationships potentially will facilitate medical advocacy work, which I would really like to incorporate in my career.

-At this point in my short clinical career, acutely/severely ill patients make me REALLY nervous. I’m sure this will improve as time goes on, but for now, I feel much more at home in an outpatient setting.

But Family Med has its cons as well. One of the biggest for me is that it’s very limited in terms of specialties, and it’s really easy to burn out in primary care. It’s frustrating to see a patient with a BMI of 70 and know that they’re slowly killing themselves, but they won’t take their medications or change their diets.  That fact pushes me away from family medicine and more towards Medicine/Pediatrics solely because you can subsequently specialize; I really would like to know I have an out if I need a change.

It also has the potential to get boring. One day, I saw about 10 follow-up appointments for hypertension. Sure, I enjoyed interacting with the patients, but by the end of the day, I didn’t care if I ever had to take another blood pressure again.

At the end of the day, this rotation has done one thing: taken a career pathway that was not even on my radar and placed it at the top of my mind.

And now I’m on to psych. Which is also not on my radar, but talk to me in a couple weeks and see where I stand. Most likely, I’ll be the one hovering outside the patient’s door, reminding myself that they’re “crazy”, not me.


11 thoughts on “The One with the Family Med Recap

  1. Glad you enjoyed family medicine. With respect to your comment about Family Medicine being very limited in terms of specialties, in my experience Family Medicine is one of the most flexible careers for determining what you want your practice to be like. I know family doctors who do rural medicine (including ER and obstetrics), who do exclusively walk-in clinics (sounds horrible, but they like it), who do primarily pediatrics, who do hepatology clinics, who do cosmetic medicine….the variety is seemingly endless! Admittedly this is in Canada, and I know that medical fields are structured somewhat differently in the States, but I suspect there is more variety in Family Medicine than you realize.

    • Excellent point; thank you for reminding me there’s a world outside my experiences. However, I do think there is one key point there: rural medicine. It’s easy to choose to see your family doc for hepatology or cosmetics when there’s no other option, but given the option of a liver specialist or a plastic surgeon in a more urban setting (which is more where I see myself practicing), I’m not sure many would opt to see their family physician. Regardless, you’re probably right: there are more options than I recognize.

      • Actually, the hepatology clinic and the cosmetic clinic are both run by urban family doctors in my city. I think they’re successful because the docs have found niches that aren’t being filled – in my city, for example, the wait to see an actual hepatologist is 18 months!

      • Oh, wow. That’s awesome, and such a relief to know that if I go that route I can still stretch a bit into other arenas. 🙂

  2. This is a point I think about all the time too, even though even becoming a dr is still 4 years off… I worry about what speciality will allow me to have a family but allow me to enjoy my job at the same time you know?
    also medical advocacy ftw. I’ve found very few people that share my love for it so 🙂

    • It’s always a worry at the back of my mind; I think I’ll have a hard time accepting that it’s pretty hard to be a stellar doctor and a stellar mom (someday) and still have my hands in projects… sigh.

      I think a lot of people love medical advocacy… there’s just not enough exposure to it in the basic curriculum to help people recognize that, but it’s awesome that you have! 🙂

      • I actually go to Med School in Australia and we have a student body here made up of representatives from our 20 med schools whose whole purpose is to advocate, either for our rights as medical students or just medical advocacy in general. Its never something I thought I’d get involved in but I love. We have a current internship bottleneck at the moment, so its going crazy. Check out #internshipcrisis on twitter haha if you want to see how crazy medstudents get. Its great though because its international students who are missing out on Internships but there are a lot of local students involved in the cause.

  3. Great post. Family med has never been on my radar, but I totally agree with those pros (and cons) that you listed. Looking forward to that rotation for sure, hopefully it will be as pleasantly surprising for me as it was for you! With the 4 day weeks :-)! What did you DO with all that time? LOL! Also, I guarantee you that your pts will love you MORE than half as much as they did your preceptor. Med/Peds is a great option. Def something to look at in more depth. I am also contemplating checking out Adolescent Med.

  4. Pingback: The One Where I Whine A Lot | I's & O's: The Ins and Outs of Life, Medical School, and This Girl's Wandering Mind

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