What is a Physician?

A physician is a medical practitioner whose education centers around medicine.

In many cases, patients may refer to their physician as “doctor,” a commonly accepted term used to describe physicians and surgeons who have obtained their doctorates and practice in the field.

These medical experts diagnose, treat, and care for patients with various physical and mental injuries, disabilities, diseases, or illnesses.

Physicians gather and analyze patient medical histories, diagnose and treat various medical conditions, prescribe treatments and medications, and (for surgeons) perform emergency surgical procedures on patients who require advanced medical care.

Physicians can often work with nurse aides, registered nurses, practitioners, and other medical professionals.

It enables them to provide patients with proper medical care at all health stages.

Those who become physicians may decide to begin their career as general physicians or specialize in a specific healthcare field.

Some of these specialized fields can include emergency medicine, family care, gynecology, cardiology, and surgery, among other career choices.


Physicians operate at the highest level of medical care.

They provide a wide range of services and practices to help patients recover from their physical or mental ailments and counsel them on making better life choices.

Some of the responsibilities and tasks a physician may perform can include:

  • Obtaining and examining patient medical records and history
  • Interviewing patients to gather pertinent medical information
  • Performing patient examinations
  • Taking and monitoring patient vital signs
  • Collecting patient samples for lab testing
  • Diagnosing and treating a range of mental and physical injuries, diseases, and disorders
  • Prescribe medications
  • Specify and impose patient treatment plans
  • Perform surgical procedures (specialized surgeons)
  • Counsel patients on their health and well-being

Besides direct medical care, physicians educate patients on improving their lifestyle and adequately recovering from an injury, illness, or surgical procedure.

Physicians have the highest level of medical expertise within their field and thus have many responsibilities to perform accurately and efficiently.

Those who become physicians must lead and manage teams effectively. They’ll likely work with other medical caregivers who report to them and regularly provide care to the same patients.

As with other medical professionals, physicians must prioritize patient confidentiality and maintain professionalism and respect for their patients.

Being personable and caring are also necessary components of a good physician. They allow patients to develop a rapport with them, open up about their aspects (medical and other), and gain a trust level that makes the patient confident their visits will remain confidential.


Physicians in the United States generally hold either an M.D. (Doctor of Medicine) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) degree.

Most physicians spend 8 – 10 years in an educational institution and another 3 – 8 years working in a residency to become proficient in their careers.

From an education aspect, medical students spend around four years in an undergraduate program.

It enables them to earn their bachelor’s degree to pursue post-graduate education.

After that, students spend an additional four years in medical school.

They must also take internships and participate in a residency program to earn their license to become physicians.

The extensive training that physicians receive allows them to specialize and practice in any healthcare area and perform their duties at the highest level and with the most authority.

Physicians who obtain their degrees, complete their residency, and gain licensing can work in almost any medical setting.

It includes hospitals, healthcare centers, family clinics, specialty surgeon offices, and independent practices.

Besides working in areas that focus specifically on patients and direct care, physicians may also work for educational institutions, governmental agencies, law firms, law enforcement, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and research labs.

For example, physicians who work with a law firm or law enforcement use their expertise to assist with criminal trials.

They’ll provide critical insights, observe forensic data, and simplify complicated medical terminology/jargon.

It enables the judge, jury, and lawyers can better understand the case and the actual events.

Working life

Depending on where physicians work and their employer, their work schedule and patient care area can vary drastically.

For example, physicians that own their own office may work Monday through Friday from 9 am – 5 pm.

Contrarily, physicians in emergency rooms may work morning, noon, and night and may be on call for emergencies.

Physicians who work in long-term care facilities may operate as overseers and provide care to patients who need additional medical attention. Registered nurses and CNAs care for patients under less severe circumstances.

As mentioned earlier, these medical professionals may work in various healthcare centers.

Physicians can work in hospitals, surgical rooms, critical care units, general practice facilities, long-term care centers, and physician offices, among other settings.

Each of these settings can specialize in a specific type of medical care. Therefore, depending on the care required, a physician may work within a range of medical practices or be required to gain additional education to practice within a specific field setting.

The Team

Because physicians cannot diagnose, treat and care for every patient they receive, they may work with various specialists.

It includes nurse aides, certified nurse assistants, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners.

Combined, these healthcare professionals ensure patients receive proper care and time.

For instance, registered nurses identify patients’ medical problems, interview them to gather information, and manage some medical treatment procedures.

They also dress wounds, assist patients with mobility and administer medications.

As a result, registered nurses allow physicians to spend more time on high-level tasks that require their expertise.

In some states, physicians may also work alongside nurse practitioners, run their practices, and act as intermediaries/supervisors in states requiring a physician to be present.

In most specialized fields, physicians are part of a team, and effective communication and coordination are essential in ensuring everyone performs their tasks while minimizing opportunities for errors or complications.

Even in situations where a physician may own their clinic, they need to communicate and work effectively with their employees to ensure that patients receive adequate and timely care.