Your family doctor is your care specialist
Scope of practice
Family medicine is a specialty focusing on the patient to provide life-long care throughout every stage in their life. Family doctors are unique because they build long-term patient relationships that foster an understanding of their patients’ health history, feelings, and expectations.
Family doctors play a crucial role in diagnosing and treating illness and disease, as well as encouraging good health and preventative measures, and facilitating referrals, when required. Their medical expertise and training allow them to work across a wide variety of care settings and environments, including:
- Public and private practice offices and clinics
- Emergency departments
- Home and long-term care facilities
- Virtually – when it’s not possible to see patients in-person
Range of expertise
Family doctors are skilled at dealing with uncertainty. They have expert knowledge of the wide range of common problems experienced by patients. They diagnose and treat everyday illnesses, acute conditions like pneumonia, life-threatening emergencies, urgent issues, and chronic illnesses such as diabetes, in all patients in every age group. Family doctors are also prepared to lead or coordinate care with other specialists and healthcare providers.
Family doctors provide preventative care, including routine checkups, health-risk assessments, immunizations and screening tests, mental health support, as well as prescribing medications and offering personalized counselling on maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Many family doctors can also:
- Provide care for addiction and substance-use disorders
- Deliver babies, including performing caesarean sections
- Provide end-of-life care
- Provide anesthesia
- Work in emergency rooms
- Care for the seriously ill in hospital critical care units
- Handle major trauma cases
- Perform surgery
- Stabilize patients for transport
Family doctors mean better outcomes for patients
The unique relationship between patients and family physicians means your family doctor knows not only your health history, but they also understand who you are and how your health impacts your life.
Family physicians approach care as a partnership, working with patients to understand their health concerns, identify treatment and health goals, make shared decisions about planning care or treatment, and guide patients to manage their own health throughout their lives.
Research shows that having a family doctor improves healthcare outcomes:
- Patients with a regular family doctor are more likely to avoid hospital visits and admissions
- Individuals with chronic conditions who are cared for by family physicians tend to have better health outcomes overall
- Those who have a family doctor report feeling better supported in navigating the healthcare system
Learn more about why family doctors are the foundation of Canada’s healthcare system.
Family doctors keep training for the future
When family doctors begin practicing independently, they have completed years of medical training, graduated from a residency program, and successfully completed the exam for Certification in the College of Family Physicians (CCFP Designation). This designation means that your family physician has met and continues to meet the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s high standards for training and continuing medical education.
Since health care is always changing and evolving, family doctors make a lifelong commitment to continuous learning and education. Throughout their career, family doctors maintain their CCFP designation demonstrating that they continue to stay up-to-date on changes and developments in health care, as well as new guidelines and tools. Family physicians also expand their skills and training to provide care that responds to the needs of the communities and patients they serve.
Find a family doctor
Family doctors build life-long relationships with patients and provide complete, patient-centred care, improving the health of all Canadians. They play a crucial role in maintaining your health and preventing illness, and they are your care specialist for managing your health at every stage in your life.
Resources to help you find a family doctor in your province or territory:
Alberta – acfp.ca/find-a-family-physician
British Columbia – bccfp.bc.ca/for-the-public/find-a-family-doctor
New Brunswick – nbms.nb.ca/finding-a-family-physician
Newfoundland & Labrador – findadoctornl.ca
Northwest Territories – hss.gov.nt.ca/en/services/nwt-health-care-plan/physician-services
Nova Scotia – novascotia.ca/dhw/physicians
Nunavut – gov.nu.ca/health
Prince Edward Island – princeedwardisland.ca/en/information/health-pei/patient-registry-program