The term “physician” is another word for doctor or an individual who is qualified to practice medicine. There are various areas that physicians can specialize in, and even more subspecialties. If you want to become a physician, you can choose to become a pediatrician and work with children, a family medicine doctor, a gerontologist and work with the aging population, a gynecologist specializing in women’s health, a dermatologist, a surgeon, or even a psychiatrist.
Internal medicine doctors, or internists, are the type of physicians who most often come to mind when one mentions the word “doctor”. Internists focus on diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases and illnesses that affect adult humans. They are considered high-demand healthcare workers, meaning that they have job security. Here are a few areas that you can specialize in as an internal medicine physician.
Careers in Internal Medicine
Cardiologists practice cardiology, meaning that they focus on the treatment and prevention of diseases of the heart and the entire cardiovascular system. Their training consists of three years of cardiology training post-residency and medical school. Cardiologists can also specialize in certain areas, such as:
- Congenital heart disease
- Heart failure
- Heart transplants
- Interventional cardiology
Endocrinologists specialize in the health of the endocrine system, which is composed of all of the major glands in the body. Endocrinology requires two years of specialized training after medical school and residency so physicians can diagnose, treat, manage, and even prevent conditions like:
- Adrenal cortex dysfunction
- Diabetes mellitus (Type II Diabetes)
- Gonadal disease
- Metabolic disorders
- Pituitary diseases
- Thyroid issues
Gastroenterologists’ specialty lies in the digestive system, also known as the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Three years of training in gastrointestinal medicine and nutrition is required after medical school and residency to be able to diagnose and treat:
- Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis
- Gallbladder issues
- Liver problems
- Other diseases and cancers of the GI tract
Hematology and Oncology
Hematologists and oncologists work closely together, as hematologists focus on blood disorders and oncologists specialize in cancer treatment. Both hematologists and oncologists must complete an additional two years of training post-residency, and can even earn dual certification in hematology and oncology after another three years of fellowship training to specialize in:
- Bone cancer
Immunologists manage the disorders of the immune system, including allergies. Specialized immunologist training takes just two years after a completed residency, and some immunologists go on to become certified in rheumatology as well. This prepares them to treat:
- Adverse reactions that affect the GI system
- Allergic reactions caused by food, drugs, insects, etc.
- Immune system disorders
- Skin and eye irritations
Nephrologists diagnose and treat issues relating to the kidneys. After their medical residency, future nephrologists are required to complete an additional two years of training in nephrology to become certified in:
- Fluid and electrolyte management
- Hypertension management
- Kidney transplantation
- Overseeing dialysis treatment
Pulmonologists focus on diagnosing and treating illnesses that affect the respiratory system. Common respiratory illnesses are usually self-treatable or treated by general internists, but pulmonologists must complete two years of fellowship training in pulmonary diseases. Some even get specialized in critical care medicine to be able to treat hospitalized patients suffering from:
- Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Complications from COVID-19
- Lung cancer
- Pulmonary hypertension
Rheumatologists specialize in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, including joints and connective tissues. It takes two years post-residency to study rheumatology in-depth, but many rheumatologists receive dual certification in rheumatology and immunology since certain immune disorders cause these musculoskeletal issues:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
Finding Employment as an Internist
Hospitals and Hospital Networks
Internists who find work as a hospitalist provide care to patients in a hospital setting, and this is also known as hospital medicine. Pulmonologists are the types of internists that are most often employed in hospitals, but employing general hospitalists can reduce the amount of overtreatment that occurs in medical settings, and keep hospital readmission rates low. Internists can also work in doctor offices that are a part of a larger hospital network.
Internists can also become employed in private practices— doctor’s offices that are not associated with a hospital or other medical institution. Some even choose to start their own practice to have more freedom and flexibility. Just keep in mind that you assume all responsibility when opening up your own private practice.
No matter which career path you choose in internal medicine, you will be met with certain challenges. Some challenges are related to the nature of your workplace, while others are related to the nature of the job. Still, internal medicine is a very rewarding career being that you get to help people every day.