An internal medicine specialist is a physician who applies their scientific knowledge and expertise to the compassionate care, diagnosis and treatment of adult diseases, from simple health issues to complex illnesses. The physician specializing in this field of medicine is referred to as an internist. The discipline is focused on the care of adult patients, in the context of meaningful and thoughtful doctor-patient relationships.
Not to be confused with interns or general practitioners, their training lasts between three to seven years in medical school and postgraduate training. An intern is a doctor in his or her first year of residency training, while a general practitioner covers medical issues that affect a person of any age. Internists are sometimes considered as the doctor’s doctor, because they often act as consultants to other doctors who’ve encountered puzzling and challenging diagnostic complications.
Training and Skills
Many internists join the practice immediately they complete training. They practice general internal medicine, where they handle a broad spectrum of illnesses that affect adults. They are acknowledged to be experts in diagnosis, and treatment of severe chronic illnesses, as well as disease prevention and health promotion. General internists are not limited to one type of medical problem or organ system. They are fully capable of handling whatever problem a patient brings, whether it’s simple, complicated, common or rare. They handle themselves well when it comes to puzzling problems or when several different illnesses attack at the same time.
General internists are trained to work in a variety of settings. Those who focus their practice in the hospital are known as hospitalists. There are those who combine several facets of care and provide both inpatient and outpatient care, while others practice in other unique settings such as long-term care facilities, rehabilitation, among other clinical settings. They are uniquely qualified to practice care on patients over long periods of time, allowing them to establish long and rewarding relationships with their patients.
An internist may choose to pursue additional training to specialize further (subspecialize) in a more focused area of internal medicine. Often called “fellowship”, subspecialty training is an additional one to three years. They receive deep and broad training in that area of specialty, and end up qualifying to handle extremely complex medical situations, and advanced clinical procedures. In special cases, an internist may decide to treat both adults and children. After getting a certification for pediatrics, he or she is able to combine internal medicine and pediatrics, a career path referred to as Med-Peds.
The benefit of being an internist is that it allows a doctor to extraordinarily diagnose and treat specific illnesses in their patients. Although a general intern is able to do this for various diseases, an internist with a subspecialty is much more highly trained to concentrate their efforts on complications stemming from one illness. Internists can also provide preventative care, from mammograms to other types of cancer screenings. They are qualified to help patients establish treatment schedules and routines.
In addition to this, internists are great at communicating with each other, especially when giving additional support and referrals to their patients. Inter-office communications such as hospital transfers and referrals are made seamless through the effort of internists. Lastly, due to the nature of internal medicine, and depending on the subspecialty, a patient can develop a long-term, trusting relationship with their doctor. Right from the age of 18, they can stay with that internist for decades.