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Patient care relies on physicians' judgment and decision-making regarding diagnosis, treatment options, referrals, and additional care coordination. As highly educated medical professionals, physicians use their expertise to guide healthcare delivery, advocate for patients, and promote community health.

What is a Physician?

Physicians typically complete 4 years of medical school after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. This intensive education prepares them to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness and injury in patients.

In their day-to-day work, physicians examine patients, order tests, interpret results, provide treatments, prescribe medications, and coordinate care plans. They serve as leaders of the collaborative healthcare team.

Their extensive medical training enables them to take medical histories, perform physical exams, order lab services and diagnostic imaging, analyze test results, determine diagnoses, create treatment plans, perform procedures, prescribe medications, and much more. Specifically, physicians may work in settings such as:

The distinctions between physicians and other licensed clinical roles like nurse practitioners relate to differences in educational requirements, scopes of practice, and licensing. For example, while NPs obtain state APRN licensure, physicians attend medical school and obtain state medical licensure. Both roles collaborate in patient care delivery.

Physician Woman
Physicians Specialist

What Skills Does a Physician Require?

Excellent communication and interpersonal skills allow physicians to collaborate effectively with nurses, other physicians, and healthcare team members. Thoughtful explanation during patient interactions is also vital. A caring, compassionate manner greatly aids the provision of patient-centered care.

Sharp critical thinking and organizational talents help physicians manage changing priorities and withstand the intense pace inherent in this role where life-and-death situations are routine. Making accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment decisions under pressure requires excellent judgment.

A strong constitution and calm demeanor allow physicians to handle stressful, emotional situations with clarity. Regular exposure to illness, trauma, and patient suffering requires resilience. Physicians also need emotional intelligence to deliver difficult news with sensitivity.

The raw sights, smells and textures that accompany clinical care require a high threshold for bodily fluids, blood, and surgical procedures. Dealing with these challenges on a regular basis is not for everyone. Physicians require stamina to perform long, complex operations and work extended shifts.

How Do You Become a Physician?

The journey to becoming a licensed, practicing physician is a long one, often taking over a decade of education and training after high school. It’s an arduous but rewarding path that prepares you for a meaningful career caring for patients.

After college, the next big step is being accepted to medical school, which has an incredibly competitive admissions process. Only the top tier of college graduates have a reasonable chance, so you must excel academically in challenging prerequisite courses while also gaining health care experience showing your commitment to medicine. Strong letters of recommendation from physicians you’ve shadowed or conducted research with are also key.

Once in medical school, the basic science years lay the groundwork for clinical reasoning. You study an enormous range of topics from cellular physiology to pharmacology, pathology to neuroanatomy. Then you work with patients under strict supervision, learning diagnostic skills and bedside manner.

  • After graduating medical school, most new MDs pursue advanced residency training, immersing themselves in treating patients with real medical issues and complications to gain specialty expertise.

The medical board licensing exams are intensive milestone assessments of knowledge required before transitioning from med school to residency, and then independent unsupervised medical practice. These high-stakes tests rightfully have substantial impact on one’s medical career options so dedicated study time is essential.

  • With hard work and perseverance, doors open to join any field from primary care disciplines like pediatrics, family medicine internal medicine, to competitive surgical subspecialties at prestigious medical centers.
  • There are also non-clinical paths in health administration, medical research, or medical education. Regardless, becoming a doctor requires grit, smarts, compassion, and a lifelong commitment to helping the suffering and infirm.


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