Where can I find a family doctor?
Visit our Find a Family Doctor page for more information.
What is a family physician?
Family physicians have completed a two-year residency program specializing in family medicine. They are trained to treat the whole person. Rather than specializing in one type of care or one disease, they provide care for all parts of the body, all diseases, in all ages and genders. The doctor-patient relationship is central to family medicine. Your family doctor will work with you as your partner in managing your health throughout your life.
What training do family physicians have?
Family physicians are qualified to practice general medicine and have additional training in the specialty of family medicine. Their education consists of a Medical Doctor (MD) degree at an accredited university, followed by specialized post-graduate training in family medicine, which is received during a 2-year residency.
Is a family physician different from a general practitioner (GP)?
Many people consider these two terms to be interchangeable. Family Medicine became its own specialty in Canada when a mandatory residency program was introduced. Physicians who have completed this specialized training often prefer the term family physician. Those who did their training prior to the family medicine residency program being introduced, or who were trained in another country, may call themselves general practitioners (GPs).
What kinds of care can my family doctor provide for me?
A family physician can provide or coordinate health care for all ages and stages of life. They may work in a solo or group practice or as part of a multidisciplinary team with other health care providers. In addition to providing care for most injuries and illnesses, they can arrange specialized care for you when needed by providing a referral, coordinating with the specialist, providing any follow-up treatment you may need. They will also maintain your medical record throughout your life and share information on your behalf with other care providers you are seeing. Family physicians in BC provide a range of different services including:
- treatment of common illnesses and injuries
- preventative care, including disease prevention and health promotion
- basic emergency services
- community health
- primary mental health care
- palliative and end-of-life care
- geriatric care, including home health and long-term care
- pre-natal and maternity care
- healthy child development
- youth health
- weight loss
- smoking cessation
- referrals to/coordination with other levels of care (such as hospitals and specialist care)
- hospital care
- Emergency Room medicine
What are the benefits of having a family doctor and seeing him/her regularly?
Research in BC and around the world has shown that patients enjoy preventative care and better health outcomes if they see their family physician regularly over the long-term (Starfield, 2005, Hollander, 2009). Your doctor will get to know you and your family situation and history, will develop a familiarity with all your health care requirements and treatments, and will maintain your medical records over the long term. This knowledge enables him/her to better coordinate your care and makes the relationship more effective and satisfying for both patient and doctor
How can I be a participant in my own health care?
By being open and honest with your doctor and communicating with him/her clearly about your health care concerns and goals, you will be better involved in your own health. Be prepared for appointments, know what care you’ve received or what medications you are taking, and be sure to share this information with your doctor.
If you are interested in finding out about your health concerns before or after you see your doctor, we have compiled a list of patient resources and online health communities on our national site.
What should I do if I don’t have a doctor?
Visit our Find a Family Doctor page for more information.
What should I do if I need to see my doctor and their office is closed?
Try to plan ahead. It is always preferable to seek your care from your family doctor as they know your medical history and can ensure you receive the most appropriate treatment including tests and medication. If your health issue requires urgent care, you may seek treatment at the nearest hospital emergency room or clinic. Please ensure they are told who your family doctor is and requested to provide a copy of any tests results or care plans to him/her as quickly as possible.
What if I do go to a walk-in clinic – is there a way to ensure my doctor is up to date on my care?
If your health care needs are urgent and you must seek care at a clinic when your own doctor is unavailable, ensure the clinic doctor is told who your family doctor is and asked to send all information to him/her as soon as possible. Make sure the clinic doctor is aware of anything important about your medical history such as allergies, previous illnesses, tests or prescriptions you have received.
Will my doctor treat me if I am admitted to hospital?
Sometimes. This depends on where you live and on your family doctor. In BC, some family doctors provide hospital care and others don’t. Some hospitals have family doctors that work as hospitalists and they provide care to patients during a hospital admission. If you are treated by someone other than your regular family doctor when in hospital, be sure to let them know who your doctor is so they can consult with them and provide any important follow-up information about your care. If you are not sure about the services provided by your family doctor, just ask.
What should I do if I think I need to see a specialist?
It is best to see your family doctor first. Explain your health concerns and goals, and discuss possible treatment options with them. Your doctor is able to refer you to all kinds of specialists, and will be in a good position to help decide what you need. He/she will also be able to communicate with the specialist on your behalf, maintain your medical record, and provide any ongoing follow-up care you may require.
What does the BC College of Family Physicians do?
The BC College of Family Physicians is a chapter of the national College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC). The CFPC is a professional association of family physicians, and is responsible for the standards of training and certification for the specialty of family medicine. It also advocates for family doctors and their patients, and promotes the importance of family medicine.
As the professional home of BC family physicians, the BCCFP provides leadership, support, advocacy and education.
What is primary care?
Primary care simply means a person’s first point of contact with the health care system, where they receive most of their everyday care. It includes prevention, diagnosis and treatment of most health conditions, illnesses and injuries. Family doctors are providers of primary care.
What is a family practice resident?
A medical resident is a graduate of medical school and have earned their MD. Family medicine residents are pursuing a 24 month training in the area of family medicine. In BC there are currently 18 educational sites where residents train, each is accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Residents balance their time in the hospital, clinic and community. They rotate through various disciplines with an effort to learn the breadth of information required of a family physician. Residents are always overseen by a licensed preceptor but are able to manage your medical care, including ordering diagnostic testing and writing prescriptions when needed.