Family Practice FAQs

Family medicine is the continuing and current expression of the historical medical practitioner. The first physicians were generalists. For thousands of years, these generalists provided all of the medical care available. They diagnosed and treated illnesses, performed surgery, and delivered babies. As medical knowledge expanded and technology advanced, many physicians chose to limit their practices to specific, defined areas of medicine.

The family practice clinic functions as the patient’s medical home within the health care system. The family physician is the physician of first contact in most situations and, as the initial provider, is in a unique position to form a bond with the patient. The family physician evaluates the patient’s total health needs, and provides personal care within several fields of medicine. The family physician’s care is comprehensive and not limited by age, sex, organ system or type of problem, be it biological, behavioral, or social. The family physician’s care utilizes knowledge of the patient in the context of the family and the community. This care emphasizes disease prevention and health promotion. The family physician refers the patient when indicated to other sources of care while preserving continuity of care. The family physician’s role as a cost-effective coordinator of the patient’s health services is integral to the care provided.

Southwest Family Physicians, is one of the few family practice clinics which offer obstetric care. We are able to care for you and your growing family without disrupting your continuity of care. We offer comprehensive, patient-centered health care for your entire family, the old fashioned way-with respect, kindness and dedication to serving each individual’s health needs.

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse with advanced academic and clinical experience, which enables him or her to diagnose and manage most common and many chronic illnesses, either independently or as part of a health care team. A nurse practitioner provides much outpatient care previously offered only by physicians and in most states, including Oregon, has the ability to autonomously prescribe medications. In Oregon, Nurse Practitioners are licensed to practice medicine independently. A nurse practitioner provides high-quality, cost-effective and individualized care for the life span of patient’s special needs.

NPs focus largely on health maintenance, disease prevention, counseling and patient education in a wide variety of settings. With a strong emphasis on primary care, nurse practitioners are employed within a variety of different specialties, including nurse midwifery, family practice, psychiatric mental health, adult and women’s helath geriatrics and acute care. Here at Southwest Family Physicians our Nurse Practitioners specialize in Midwifery, Family Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health.

In the state of Oregon, Nurse Practitioners are required to have been educated through programs that grant a master’s degree. A registered nurse is recommended to first have extensive clinical experience even before applying to a nurse practitioner program. An intensive preceptorship under the direct supervision of an experienced nurse practitioner or a physician, as well as instruction in nursing theory, are key components to most NP programs.

All Physician assistants (PA-Cs) are qualified by graduation from an accredited physician assistant educational program and certification by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

Within the physician/PA relationship, physician assistants exercise autonomy in medical decision making and provide a broad range of diagnostic and therapeutic services. A PA-C’s responsibilities may also include education, research, and administrative services. Physician assistants work wherever physicians or health care organizations employ them. They can be found in virtually all health care settings.

Physician assistants can take medical histories, perform physical exams, order and interpret laboratory tests, diagnose and treat illnesses, counsel patients, assist in surgery, and set fractures. Physician assistants are educated as generalists in medicine; all programs emphasize primary care. Although their education and credentialing are based on a primary care foundation, PA-Cs can work in specialty fields, such as cardiovascular surgery, orthopedics, and emergency medicine. The largest proportion opt for the primary care specialty areas of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology.

Osteopathic physicians (D.O.s) practice a “whole person” approach to medicine and they have a special passion for preventive health care. Instead of just treating specific symptoms or illnesses, they regard your body as an integrated whole. They receive extra training in the musculoskeletal system — your body’s interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of its body mass. This training provides osteopathic physicians with a better understanding of the ways that an injury or illness in one part of your body can affect another part of it.

Osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) is incorporated in the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose injury and illness and to encourage your body’s natural tendency toward good health. By combining all available medical procedures with OMT, D.O.s offer their patients the most comprehensive care available in medicine today.

Osteopathic medicine is a philosophy of medicine based on ideas that date back to Hippocrates, the father of medicine. The philosophy focuses on the unity of all body parts. He identified the musculoskeletal system as a key element of health. He recognized the body’s ability to heal itself and stressed preventive medicine, eating properly and keeping fit.

MDs and DOs are very similar in that applicants to both D.O. and M.D. medical colleges are required to have a four-year undergraduate degree with an emphasis on scientific courses. Both D.O.s and M.D.s complete four years of basic medical education. After medical school, both D.O.s and M.D.s can choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine — such as surgery, family practice or psychiatry–after completing a residency program (typically two to six years of additional training). Both D.O.s and M.D.s must pass comparable state licensing exams. D.O.s and M.D.s both practice in fully accredited and licensed health care facilities.

“Medical home” is a commonly used term for a primary care practice that provides and/or coordinates all aspects of patient care. In Oregon, medical homes are called “Patient Centered Primary Care Homes” or abbreviated as PCPCH. We are certified by the state of Oregon, based on our breadth of services and our quality of care, as a Tier 4 PCPCH. Beyond the certification, being a medical home is core to our belief in treating the whole patient. Our staff and providers go the extra mile for our patients because they are caring, compassionate, and supportive, and have created a medical home here at Southwest Family Physicians.