What is an Internist?
Table of Contents
An internist is a physician, or a 'doctor of internal medicine', who applies scientific knowledge and clinical expertise in order to diagnose, treat, and practice compassionate care for adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. They can be generalists or sub-specialists, like cardiologists or rheumatologists. If they choose not to sub-specialize, they are known as general internists.
Note: They are not to be mistaken with "interns," who are doctors in their first year of residency training.
How to Become an Internist
What does an Internist do?
Internists generally act as personal physicians and often develop long-term relationships with their patients. Internists are equipped to deal with whatever problem a patient brings, no matter how simple or complex, common or rare. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may be prevalent at the same time. They also bring to patients an understanding of wellness (the promotion of health and disease prevention), women's health, mental health, substance abuse, as well as effective treatment of common problems of the ears, eyes, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.
Internists can choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine or take additional training to "sub-specialize" in additional areas of internal medicine.
There are 13 sub-specialties of internal medicine:
- Adolescent medicine
- Allergy and immunology
- Cardiology (heart)
- Endocrinology (diabetes and other glandular disorders)
- Gastroenterology (colon and intestinal tract)
- Geriatrics (care of the elderly)
- Hematology (blood)
- Infectious disease
- Nephrology (kidneys)
- Oncology (cancer)
- Pulmonology (lungs)
- Rheumatology (arthritis)
- Sports medicine
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How to Become an Internist
An undergraduate degree is required before attending medical school. A 'B' average or above in math and science is needed to get into medical school. While in undergraduate school, preparation is needed in order to pass the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT).
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.
The training an internist receives to sub-specialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep. Subspecialty training (often called a "fellowship") usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year general internal medicine residency.
What is the workplace of an Internist like?
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, 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.
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