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Purpose and Mission
General practitioners (GPs) devote their practice to diagnosing and treating general medical illnesses. They provide comprehensive and continued care to individuals and families across all ages and genders within their communities. This involves a range of acute, chronic and preventative medical services such as routine check-ups, health-risk assessments, immunisations, screening tests and personalised advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. GPs are usually the first point of reference for non-emergency illnesses and injuries and will refer patients to the required specialists upon diagnosis.
GPs in private practice may not have a direct supervisor, but are typically overseen by the management of their practice or the medical committee of a hospital where they have privileges.
Many GPs and family practice doctors will have supervisory responsibilities related to maintaining and managing their practice/office.
Becoming a GP requires an undergraduate degree, graduating from medical school and completing a residency program. Medical doctors must obtain a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). Continuing education is required to maintain licensure.
All doctors must be registered with the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practise in Australia, as well as with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which provides administrative and policy support to the National Health Practitioners Boards.
Responsibilities of a General Practice / Family Practice Doctor
The role of a GP can vary greatly depending on where they practice. In urban areas, their scope is focused on the care of general medical illnesses, chronic health problems, providing preventative care such as health education, immunisations and early detection of serious illnesses which involves referrals to specialists such as oncologists, cardiologists, paediatricians, psychiatrists, etc.
In rural areas, GPs provide a wider range of care and often encounter a larger amount of complex or chronic health conditions. In addition to private consulting room care, GPs based in rural areas provide house calls if clinic facilities are limited or unavailable, after hours care, in-hospital care, emergency room care, deliver babies and perform small surgical/clinical procedures.
Typical responsibilities of a GP include:
GPs usually work within a general practice, a health clinic or a community health centre with a group of practitioners. They work in both the government and private sectors. Although GPs are usually part of a medical clinic, they do most of their work independently in private rooms. GPs often work with other health professionals and can treat patients in group settings.
Family practice doctors play an increasingly important role within the healthcare community today, acting as gatekeepers for the healthcare system. In addition to treating patients for various illnesses, they play a major role in providing advice on preventative treatments and wellness programs to reduce the demand on the healthcare system.