Shaun Brancheau, M.D Family Medicine
Q: I’m confused as to whether I should see a family medicine provider or an internal medicine provider. What’s the difference?
1. What is family medicine?
For decades the specialty of family medicine has been fondly caring for patients “from womb to tomb.” All family physicians have been trained in prenatal care, pediatrics, care of the adolescent, adult medicine, and geriatrics. As the culture of medicine changes many doctors have chosen to focus on their interests in their field. Family medicine is no exception. Many family medicine doctors enjoy the lifestyle and continuity of care that an outpatient clinic provides. Others prefer the high acuity of inpatient medicine, while some family doctors prefer the speed and excitement of urgent care. In rural areas many family physicians still practice full scope medicine; performing all aspects of medical and even surgical care for their community. Overall, family medicine is the most diverse field of medicine with the widest scope of practice. We can care for anyone at any stage in their life or health.
2. How is family medicine different from internal medicine?
Family medicine and internal medicine have many similarities and differences. Both specialties follow the same guidelines in the diagnosis and management of illness and chronic medical conditions.
The main difference for me is family medicine has always meant caring for the entire family. I just love “collecting families” and getting to care for several generations of the same family. It is very rewarding to have a young mom trust you with the care of her child, or middle-aged son asking you to help care for his rapidly aging father. For me the difference between family medicine and internal medicine is not in the medicine…it’s in the family.
How do I know which type of physician I should see?
I have always felt the relationship between a doctor and a patient is the most important factor in maintaining excellent care. A good relationship will promote mutual trust and respect. This will lead to better communication and understanding between the health care provider and the patient. I encourage patients to find a provider with a personality and style that makes them enjoy being proactive in their health and wellness.