Shelly Reese

DisclosuresNovember 13, 2014

Many doctors have suggested that family physicians are struggling with an identity crisis. Is it true?

Family physicians are specialists who, paradoxically, specialize in being comprehensivists. They practice in a realm bookended by nurse practitioners (NPs) and physician assistants on one side, and specialists on the other. “The former claim to do what we do, and the latter claim to do it better,” lamented one family physician in a Family Practice Management editorial.[1] “Our clinical expertise, both cognitive and procedural, is being assailed.”

The fact that many employed family physicians face restrictions on the scope of care they can deliver exacerbates the identity problem.

As Dr Daniel Sprogen, director of medical education at the University of Nevada School of Medicine, wrote, “If family physicians aren’t providing pediatric care or maternity care or doing procedures or inpatient care, how do we differentiate ourselves from NPs or any other health care professionals?”[2]

But the underlying cause of family physicians’ identity struggle may derive from the nature of the specialty itself. Although all physicians must contend with unprecedented regulatory, administrative, and technological changes, most specialists can rest assured that their practice remains anchored in the constancy of their special focus on one system or aspect of the human body.

For family physicians, whose practice is based on a philosophy of comprehensive care, rather than treatment of a distinct biological system or disease, even that constant is off the table.

Craig Amnott

Craig Amnott

A graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Dr. Craig Amnott earned his medical degree at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine and is board certified in Family Medicine. Doctor Amnott is licensed to practice both medicine and medical acupuncture in the state of New York.

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