Internists are doctors who specialize in treating diseases of the body in relation to one or more internal organ system. For example, diabetes is a chronic disease that affects the pancreas and can affect other body organ systems if left untreated. Usually, these doctors work as General Practitioners (GPs) or opt to specialize in one area of the body, such as cardiology. Another option is for doctors of internal medicine to specialize in working with a particular population, for example the elderly or geriatric medicine. A person specializing in internal medicine assists patients with specific disorders and those with more general complaints. For example, the doctor may specialize in gastroenterology, but he or she can also treat general complaints such as the flu or pink eye. Internal medicine is very broad and enables the doctor to work with patients suffering from many different diseases or disorders.
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A physician who works in internal medicine is need of a puzzle. A doctor of internal medicine is specifically trained to solve all kinds of illnesses for adult patients. Each patient has symptoms that manifest individually and in turn must be treated with individual needs in mind. A doctor of internal medicine usually treats adult patients. Sometimes the patient will tell the doctor the problem and the doctor is able to diagnose and treat the problem. At other times the patient and the physician are not sure about the diagnosis and the doctor orders diagnostic tests, such as, blood tests, Magnetic Resolution Imaging (MRI) or x-rays. Once a diagnosis is made the doctor is better able to treat the symptoms and diagnose the underlying problem. Physicians of internal medicine are often asked to consult with other doctors about a patient's diagnosis.
The need to problem-solve is central to anyone wanting to become a doctor of internal medicine. Working to diagnose and treat people with different illnesses is challenging and rewarding work. A doctor of internal medicine is confronted with a puzzle daily, sometimes every hour of the day. Analytical or critical thinking is crucial to becoming a doctor of internal medicine. The ability to think analytically and critically allows the physician to consider many different possibilities for successful diagnosis and treatment alternatives.
Patience and the skill of active listening are also essential to the personality of a person serious about practicing medicine. Patience is required when working with people who are not at their best. Patients are ill and are seeking remedy to their problem. Active listening is the cultivated ability to pay close attention to what a person is and is not saying. The ability to interpret what a patient is attempting to communicate is an important part of working as a doctor.
Love of learning is also a skill needed for anyone planning to become a doctor of internal medicine. The learning process continues far beyond formal education through keeping track of advances in the field. The process of learning is life-long when choosing to become a doctor. Interesting cases may present an opportunity to share knowledge with colleagues, patients or present findings in professional journals.
The ability to speak with people clearly and a willingness to educate patients in their treatment are also important skills. This is another area in which patience is important. Some patients may be unwilling or unable to follow a doctor's advice. A person who wants to practice medicine must be willing to explain information on a level that is understandable to the patient and provide instructions that the patient is able to follow. The physician should be aware of the level of comprehension a patient has in understanding instructions and be willing to convey instructions understandable to the patient.
It is best to plan on becoming a doctor while attending high school. Keep grade averages at 4.0 or above. An undergraduate degree is required before attending medical school. A B average or above in math and science courses in undergraduate study are needed to get into medical school. While in undergraduate school, prepare for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). A score on the MCAT is required before entering graduate school. The average score to enter medical school on the MCAT is 30. The first three years of medical school is concentrated on basic medical courses, while the last three years is largely clinical work. Once complete, residency work is required which is often an additional two to six years. Finally, a board test is required to receive board certification.
A doctor of internal medicine may work in a clinic, private office or hospital. Work in a clinic or hospital usually provides a salary or percentage of profit from clinic work. Usually, an office is provided when working in a clinic or hospital. Additionally, when working for a clinic or hospital, sufficient staff are available for billing, patient care and to assist with diagnostic testing. Opening a private office provides flexibility, however the doctor is responsible for providing staff to assist with patients and billing.
The average salary for a doctor of internal medicine is $80,000 with full benefits. Education costs are sometimes paid for by hospitals or can be fully re-paid through agreeing to military service.