As the supply of doctors is struggling to keep up with a growing and aging population, the demand for physicians in the U.S. continues to grow. With general practitioners—or primary care physicians—as among the doctors who are most in demand, the need is greater now than ever before. Do you have a passion for becoming a doctor?

Xavier University School of Medicine (XUSOM) in Aruba explores why now is the best time to pursue a medical degree and what it takes to become a general practitioner in this in-demand field.

Why GPs are in great demand

According to The Complexities of Physician Supply and Demand: Projections From 2019 to 2034, a report published by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the U.S. could see a physician shortage between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including shortfalls in both primary and specialty care—of which an estimated 17,800-48,000 physicians are general practitioners. This shortfall is of concern not only to patients but to the health care industry as a whole. Currently, one-third of all practicing doctors in the U.S. will be older than 65 years old in the next decade—leaving an even greater impact on the supply, if and when they decide to retire.

And when it comes to our growing population, having access to healthcare will be even more challenging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s population is getting older—and is projected to continue on that track. It is estimated the U.S. population will grow by more than 10 percent by 2032, with those over the age of 65 increasing by 48 percent.

What is the role of a GP?

A general practitioner (GP) is the first doctor a patient sees for any health issues. Also known as “family doctors,” they have a broad knowledge of medicine and treat patients of all ages. Since a family doctor is who a patient sees and trusts for his or her general health, having a good relationship and open communication with that physician is key for receiving the best possible care. Here are some of the duties of a GP:

  • Assess the general health of patient by discussing his or her medical history and symptoms
  • Run diagnostic tests
  • Discuss patient’s condition and formulate a treatment plan that may include lifestyle changes
  • Prescribe medication
  • Refer patient to a specialist when a health issue goes beyond the GP’s scope of expertise

How do you become a GP?

Becoming a GP takes passion, dedication, intelligence, and time—about 11-12 years to be exact. Although the journey may be a long one, the rewards of becoming a doctor will last a lifetime. Here is a snapshot of what is required to become a GP:

  • Bachelor’s degree—Medical schools require a bachelor’s degree. It’s recommended—and to your advantage—to take pre-medical courses such as chemistry, biology, and anatomy—as well as any other undergraduate courses that would look favorable on your transcript.
  • Attend medical schoolTo become a GP, you must receive either a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Students can expect to take a rigorous schedule of coursework in anatomy and biology, along with an in-depth medical lab curriculum. This can take anywhere from four to five and a half years.
  • Complete clinical rotations—Medical students must complete clinical rotations under the management of a licensed medical professional. During core and elective rotations, students work in different specialties, which gives them a glimpse into the different areas of medical care. This is part of medical school.
  • Pass licensing examinations—Medical students are required to pass all portions of three tests as part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) before they can practice medicine.
  • Complete residency programResidencies provide medical students on-the-job training in the specific field of medicine they wish to specialize in. To become a GP, students can expect their residency program to last about three years. Surgery and other specialties may require up to a five-year residency.
  • Get licensedGPs must acquire a state license before working with patients. They must be sure to research the requirements regarding where they live, since requirements vary by location.
  • Become board certifiedAlthough being board certified is not required to be a GP, many choose to pursue this as a way to document that they are an expert in the medical industry.
  • Fellowshippracticing physicians may choose to explore other subspecialties as part of a fellowship program which is required to practice certain subspecialties.

Qualities that make a great GP

There’s no doubt that it takes dedication and intelligence to become a doctor. But having a passion for medicine and compassion for others are major parts as well. Here are some important qualities that make a great GP:

  • Empathy
  • Compassion
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Patience
  • Curious nature
  • Good educator
  • Excellent “bedside” manner

Benefits of becoming a GP

General practitioners have an advantage over other physicians, as they have the benefit of getting to know their patients over a long period of time. This doctor-patient relationship is an invaluable benefit for both parties as it builds mutual trust and respect. Here are some other benefits to becoming a GP:

  • Fulfilling career—Doctors have a great sense of job satisfaction by helping to improve the quality of life for their patients.
  • Job security—As revealed by the statistics above, the ongoing shortage lends job security to doctors for years to come.
  • High paying salary—According to com, the average salary for a GP in the U.S. is about $217,890; however, it can range from anywhere between $188,690 and $243,790 depending on location, education, certifications and the number of years practicing, among other factors.
  • Variety—GPs touch every aspect of medicine and treat a wide variety of ailments, keeping their day-to-day exciting and new.

How a medical degree from Xavier can get you there

If becoming a doctor is your passion, XUSOM has what every medical student wants—and then some. Located on the beautiful Caribbean Island of Aruba, XUSOM offers an exceptional medical education with benchmarks that make us an attractive choice. Here are just some of the reasons why students chose Xavier to pursue their medical degree:

  • An exceptional curriculum that’s modeled on the U.S. system
  • Fully accredited by ACCM through 2028
  • Very high USMLE pass rate and residency match rate
  • More than 30 clinical affiliations throughout the U.S. and Canada
  • 6:1 student to faculty ratio
  • 15 different scholarships and grants available
  • Affordable tuition (especially compared to other accredited Caribbean medical schools)
  • Flexible financing
  • Tropical climate
  • Caring faculty and staff committed to your success
  • New residential campus

Don’t take our word for it – hear from our alumni about their experience, why they chose Xavier and about their current roles in medicine. Join them and be part of the next generation of physicians. A degree from Xavier can get you there. Apply today.