If you are interested in a medical career that gives you the chance to help patients who are suffering from various kinds of diseases, you can consider becoming an internist. As a doctor of internal medicine, you are a primary care physician that diagnoses and treats diseases or injuries sustained by a patient, specifically in his internal organs. You are a generalist who treats adults, the elderly and in some cases, adolescents, helping them manage chronic illnesses through medication and diet change. Some of the diseases that you typically encounter include diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and problems associated with the kidney, lungs and intestines. You also help patients with common illnesses like flu and various types of infections as well as those suffering from more complex problems like cancer.
In order to correctly diagnose a medical condition, you will be ordering tests for the patient. When the results arrive, you interpret the results to come up with an accurate determination for the case. From there, you can prescribe drugs or therapy to improve the patient’s condition, alleviate pain and prevent the problem from getting worse. Since patients suffering from different illnesses are plagued with health problems that they carry for life, you are expected to provide long-term and comprehensive care, seeing them regularly for checkups and monitoring their condition through various tests. In the event that changes are noted in their condition, you make adjustments to their treatment regimen.
In order to track the progress of your patients, you keep a file of their records, which include their medical history, your observations about their condition and the results of their laboratory tests. Aside from merely diagnosing and treating disease, you also counsel patients on how they can improve their health and prevent disease by following a balanced diet, increasing activity levels and maintaining hygiene and a healthy lifestyle.
As an internist, the methods you use to treat patients are mainly non-invasive. This means that you won’t be performing any surgeries. In the event that a patient will require surgery, you will work with a surgeon, advising him of the patient’s risk status and planning the best intervention to take to reduce risk while the patient goes under the knife. You will be coordinating the activities of the patient’s healthcare team if you are the attending physician.
To succeed as an internist, it’s important that you genuinely love caring for people. You need to have compassion for your patients who are in pain or emotionally stressed about their disease. You must be very observant, especially when it comes to gauging a patient’s condition or reading laboratory results. You also need to have keen problem-solving skills to determine what is causing a patient’s symptoms.
A career as a doctor of internal medicine is more than just a job. It is a vocation, a calling to serve. Nothing could be more fulfilling than knowing that you helped a patient get better or were even instrumental in curing him completely because of your training, knowledge and healing touch. The personal nature of the work enables you to get to know patients and lend a listening ear to their problems. The very lucrative pay for general internists is simply icing on the cake for a career that enables you to help and heal people and give them a chance to spend more time with their loved ones.
Internist Work Environment
Internists usually see patients in their offices although they also do rounds in the hospital to see patients who are confined. They may have their own solo practice or can collaborate with other doctors to establish a group practice. They may also work in hospitals.
Internists work long hours for four to five days each week. Their work day starts from eight o’clock in the morning in their office where they see a little over 20 patients daily. Although their clinic hours typically end at five o’clock in the afternoon, their day is not yet over as they may see patients in their daily rounds. This can add anywhere from one to three hours each day to their working hours. Internists employed by a hospital may also be asked to be on-call, which means that they have to be ready to respond to emergencies any time of the day or night. For internists managing their own practice, they would also need to devote time to taking care of the administrative tasks.
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of general internists was $188,440 which translates to mean hourly wages of $90.60. This is a bit higher than the $183,940 received by family and general practitioners but lower than the $233,150 mean annual wage of surgeons. The report further revealed that internists working for the employment services industry were paid the highest followed by those working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals and those employed in physicians’ offices.
Internist Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not provide the job outlook for internists in particular. However, the agency projected that the employment of physicians and surgeons will rise by 18 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This rate is faster than the average for all job types. The expansion of industries that have to do with healthcare will become the primary driver of growth. The increasing elderly population will also contribute to the demand. This is especially true for internists that specialize in heart disease and cancer since these are often the conditions faced by the senior population.
For one to become an internist, the journey begins by finishing a four-year bachelor’s degree course, preferably in biology, chemistry, English and other courses although there is strictly no particular major required. They then apply to a medical school and if they get accepted after hurdling a very competitive application process, they have to finish another four years to complete a medical program. In the program, their first two years are spent in the laboratories and classrooms while the last two years are devoted to working with patients in hospitals under the guidance of experienced doctors.
Once the student has graduated from medical school, he then enters a residency program in internal medicine for about three years. If they wish to sub-specialize in any of the thirteen areas of internal medicine, they can opt to undergo an additional one to three years of training through a fellowship after the standard residency. Some of subspecialties of internal medicine are cardiology, endocrinology, oncology, nephrology and pulmonology.
Before they can finally practice as internists, they have to obtain their license by passing written and practical exams, the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) and other exams that may be required by the state.