When most patients plan on heading to 'The Doctor's Office', it's typically to see Internists. Qualified to manage complex illnesses along with maintenance and general medical issues, Internists exhibit an exceptional array of knowledge and skill. While Internists most often focus on primary care, their role is different from a general family practice, as they as entirely trained to and capable of handling patients who are critically ill.
What is an Internist?
According to the American College of Osteopathic Internists, internist hold an expertise spanning farther than a single organ system, set of procedures, or type of patient. They are highly educated in health promotion, disease prevention, chronic illness, continuing care and managing patients with advanced disease.
Internists see their own patients regularly and when they have problems. They also see patients who may be referred to them as a result of their specific background or specialty. With the rise of healthcare reform, Internist provides even more preventative care than in the past. They are also sometimes responsible for helping manage mental health or substance abuse problems. Internists may also conduct research, teach educational courses or author journal articles.
Understanding the Educational Path to Become an Internist
A four-year medical degree, followed by a three-year residency program in internal medicine is the primary educational requirements for a profession as a board-certified Internist. However, the educational path begins by receiving a Bachelor's Degree from an accredited college or university. The wide scope or an Internist training is what enables them to offer effective and comprehensive care.
Internist typically enjoys solving puzzles, something frequently done in general practice. They also must be skilled in interpersonal communication as well as psychology and the hard sciences. This skill set is often the focus of core educational course study while in college.
Educational Path of an Internist
Earn a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor’s degree is the first higher-education step toward becoming an Internist. Although candidates complete a broad range of undergraduate majors, students should complete the courses the American Association of Medical Colleges found most medical schools require as prerequisites: biology, physics, chemistry, along with written and oral communication course study.
During their undergraduate degree, students wanting to gain an edge in the competitive medical school application pool would benefit from taking career and advanced education oriented steps like joining pre-medical organizations, completing community service at mental health centers, shadowing physicians and studying for the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test). Before graduating, a candidate should apply to medical school. Medical school is a four-year process, leading to an advanced degree in the medical field, either a M.D. or D.O.
Complete a medical school program
During medical school, future Internists spend their first year primarily in the classroom absorbing knowledge in areas like anatomy, histology, pathology, biochemistry, psychology, ethics and preparing for Objective Structured Clinical Exams. The second year, while still in the classroom, is more clinically focused. The third and fourth year student will move into clinical rotations and gain exposure to a wide range of potential specializations, including internal medicine.
Complete a Residency
Following medical school, graduates pursuing general internal medicine should elect to complete a three-year internal medicine residency. During these 36 months, a resident will spend about 70 percent of their time in the hospital on subspecialty and general adult services. They will also spend time working at a clinic and in electives such as outpatient subspecialty clinics and consulting services
Following their three year residency, internists can work in a hospital or in private practice.
Earn a Subspecialty
An internist subspecialty requires another one to three years of fellowship training. The 13 subspecialties include cardiology, rheumatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, genetics, hematology-oncology, infectious disease, pulmonary/critical care, nephrology, sports medicine, allergy and immunology and geriatrics.
Understanding the Career Path of an Internist
Most Internists see patients in the outpatient setting and assess their general medical needs, including acute and chronic illnesses, disease prevention, screening, patient education and inpatient follow-up care. Internists usually work in private practice or on hospital staff. Internists who spend most of their time on inpatient care are commonly known as hospitalists. Trained in many procedures and disciplines, internist often serves as experts regarding complex medical diseases.
Professional organizations can be used as a means for networking, community service, think tanks, research, continued education and specialized learning. Internist should consider joining one or more of the following niche organizations:
The American College of Physicians and Medscape found the average salary for a U.S. internist is $188,000, ranking in the lowest five of all physician types. However, they are the most highly compensated of the three primary care specialties. Hospitalists often work less and make more.
According to Gap Medics the job outlook for internists is promising, as many reports have predicted a 14 percent growth between now and 2016. As the general population ages, Internist should continue to remain in high demand. However, like any other profession, the path of learning how to become an Internist will be much easier to navigate with the right plan.