Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Duties of a Doctor

careertrend article image

Doctors' primary duty has always been helping the ill. But their methods have changed with a greater knowledge of the human body and the advancement of pharmaceutical medications. Some doctors are more specialized than others; their responsibilities are focused on specific areas of the body.


The first doctors in prehistoric time were called shaman. They used herbal plants such as orchid plants and coca for healing purposes. They also drilled holes in people's skulls to ward off evil spirits. This practice of mixing religion and medicine continued for centuries. Doctors eventually recognized that illnesses were caused by blocked channels in the body. Although surgery was first practiced by the Romans, germs and antiseptics were not discovered until the 19th century.


According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), patients made 1.1 billion trips to the doctor and hospital in 2006, an average of four visits per person. Seventy percent of these visits entailed writing at least one prescription, for a total of 2.6 billion medications. Doctors must assess a patient's illness, provide her the right medication and help her get back to work.

Types of Duties

Doctors are responsible for examining patients, studying their history and diagnosing their symptoms. They also give routine physicals to healthy patients. Primary care physicians may require X-rays or lab tests for a proper diagnosis. At the end of a visit, they either make recommendations for the patient, write him a prescription or refer him to a specialist. Doctors also spend part of their day dictating (verbally recording) their patients' conditions, which is later transcribed as a legal document. Doctors serve as consultants for patients and often recommend follow-up visits to ensure that a patient makes a full recovery from the injury or illness.

Other Types of Duties

Doctors spend part of their day visiting sick patients or those who had surgery in the hospital. At times, they assist in performing routine surgery. They also inoculate and give patients shots for preventing certain diseases or viruses. Doctors also spend part of their time advising patients on health care and dealing with insurance companies. They also visit with pharmaceutical sales representatives who apprise them of new medications. Doctors study the latest medical techniques. They also report all births, deaths and diseases to the local government.


As the population increases and as people age, the number of doctor visits will continue to rise. Because their workload may be significant, many doctors use physician assistants for diagnostic help. A working doctor's responsibilities will only increase as more physicians retire. Changes in health care will also provide new duties and challenges.