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Medical Negligence and General and Family Practice
General and family practitioners provide the front lines of medical care for most Americans. Because of this, some of their most important responsibilities are simply to get to know the medical history of their patients, and to listen to their patients when patients describe symptoms they are experiencing. These doctors may be the only people in a patient’s life who can truly understand the patient’s health. They often become the quarterback of the patients medical care.
Medical malpractice can occur when general or family practitioners fail to ask necessary questions about a patient’s medical history or fail to give enough weight to symptoms the patient experiences. Either of these mistakes can allow serious health conditions to go undiagnosed, worsen or can start the patient down an incorrect treatment path. This violates the doctor’s duty to properly diagnose a patient.
Another important role of general and family practitioners is to know when a patient’s condition requires expertise beyond what they can offer. General and family practitioners must refer their patients to specialists when patients require care beyond what the general or family practitioner can provide.
What is a GP or PCP?
A general practitioner (GP) or (PCP) is a type of doctor who does not specialize in one field of medicine and usually provides routine, primary care healthcare. General practitioners focus on the whole health of their patient, and can work from hospitals, private clinics, or even through house calls. GPs see all types of patients and treat a variety of conditions. They will refer patients to specialists when needed.
Primary care physicians are doctors who spend the majority of their time working directly in patient care in non-hospital and emergency settings. Primary care physicians include doctors trained in family practice, geriatrics (elderly), general practice, general internal medicine, and general pediatrics. In this article we focus on general practitioners and family practice doctors because these terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Of the almost 433,000 primary care physicians in the United States, about 127,000 of those are working in family medicine or general practice. Family medicine is a more popular field than general practice due to perceived levels of prestige from additional qualifications and elevated incomes.
Until about 1970, general practitioners were also known as family doctors. Most GPs practiced family medicine, and the two fields required the same educational requirements. In 1969 a new field called “family practice” was developed as a medical specialty. The new family practice specialty required additional specialization in areas like pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and geriatrics. Now general practitioner and family practitioner are different types of doctors, though some of their duties are interchangeable.
Both GPs and family practitioners go through the same basic requirements to complete a 4-year medical school program. After medical school, graduates can choose to begin a 3-year residency program certified by the American Board of Family Medicine. These doctors are then considered specialists in their field. Family practitioners can choose to get additional qualifications through specialized certifications such as obstetrics (pregnancy and childbirth).
Graduates who want to become general practitioners will complete a 2-7 year residency program that is certified by the American Board of General Practice. Often this residency will focus on family or internal medicine, but students in this program will not specialize and will receive practical training in a variety of common medical conditions.
Maryland General Practitioner Licensing Requirements
Both general and family practitioners will be required to pass licensing exams in the state they want to practice medicine in. The licensing exam alone is enough to allow a medical professional to practice medicine in a state, but it does not mean that the person has any specific qualifications in a specific field.
In addition to the state specific licensing exam, GPs and family practitioners can choose to become board certified through either the American Board of General Practice or the American Board of Family Medicine.
Family medicine doctors are certified by the American Board of Family Medicine, which requires recertification every 6 years through an examination. Doctors who specialized in family medicine are also required to complete a minimum of 150 hours of continuing education every three years to maintain certification.
Family medicine doctors can also choose to get additional training to sub-specialize in areas such as adolescent medicine, cardiology, sports medicine, or obstetrics.
Doctors going into general practice can be certified in one of two ways: they can complete the General Practice Training Program of the American College of General Medicine, or they can take an oral examination and receive certification through the Previous Experience Pathway.
Where General Practitioners Work
Both general and family practitioner can work out of hospitals or private practices, or with government or non-profit organizations. GPs and family practitioners can work as professors at universities or in a variety of other medical professions.
The average salary for general and family practitioners is about $156,000. Both types of doctors are in demand, so the average salary is expected to increase by 22% by 2018.
How General Practitioners Help People
Though general and family practitioners have some overlap in the type of work they do, there are key differences that come with the different titles.
Both general and family practitioners may regularly see the same patients over the course of a patient’s lifetime, but family practitioners have a stronger emphasis on preventative medicine and comprehensive health care.
Family practitioners are also able to diagnose and treat certain conditions more so than general practitioners who are often required to refer their patients to specialists. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, family practitioners get an additional 3 years of training in:
- Care for all ages from infants to elderly
- Care for chronic conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and heart disease
- Ear, nose and throat care
- Emergency medical care
- Minor surgical procedures
- Mental and behavioral health care
- Bone and joint care
- Eye care
- Care of the urinary system
- Well-woman care, reproductive counseling, family planning
The additional training family practitioners obtain allows them to perform more treatments than GPs are allowed to perform.
General practitioners can help a variety of people from children and their parents to elderly patients, or they can work for government agencies such as the Navy or Federal Bureau of Prisons.
GPs can provide less specialized care than family practitioners, but they do provide regular wellness visits and administer vaccines. GPs can treat acute conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. General practitioners provide comprehensive care to their patients but serve only as the ‘first point of contact’ for more serious medical conditions. For these, the GP will refer the patient to a specialist.
Experienced Maryland Medical Malpractice Attorneys
If you or a loved one believes that you have suffered an injury as a result of negligent care from your general or family practitioner, you need an experienced medical malpractice attorney to examine your case.
Medical malpractice cases can be complicated, costly and confusing. The attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian have a proven track record of success defending clients and we have a licensed physician on staff who will be able to examine your medical record and determine if there were instances of medical negligence.
Call Gilman & Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162. We will not charge any attorney fees until you get the compensation you deserve.