In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2019-2020, the first-time residency attainment rate for RUSM students was 92%. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.
Explore a Career in Internal Medicine: How to Become an Internist
If you are interested in becoming a doctor who focuses on treating a wide range of diseases and conditions in adults, you might consider a career in internal medicine. You may be curious to know exactly what is internal medicine? As a doctor of internal medicine, you diagnose and treat conditions of internal organs, but you also provide comprehensive medical care and serve as the first point of care for your patients.
Internal medicine often attracts doctors interested in a broad range of primary care and in the building of patient relationships that may last for many years. If you are considering a career in internal medicine, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you enjoy talking to patients and forming a relationship with them?
- Do you want to work in both a hospital and in an office?
- Do you seek variety in your work—treating an ear infection in one patient while puzzling through a complex coronary issue with the next?
- Do you want a career in one of the most in-demand fields of medicine?
- Do you want to focus on treating adult patients rather than children?
If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then a career as a doctor of internal medicine—also called an internist—might be the specialty for you.
What is an Internal Medicine Doctor?
Internal medicine originated in Germany, where the specialty of combining laboratory research with patient care was called innere medizin. In the early 1900’s, German doctors brought this specialty to the United States, where it was anglicized as internal medicine. The specialty name may be confusing, because while internal medicine physicians specialize on internal systems, they also treat the whole body.
Internal medicine combines clinical diagnostics on a wide range of complex and common conditions with a personalized and compassionate approach to medicine. A doctor of internal medicine specializes in managing diseases of such internal organs as the heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs, while also serving as primary care physicians for patients aged 18 and older.
Internal medicine doctors focus on disease prevention, mental health, substance abuse, and treatment of common problems of the ears, eyes, nervous system, reproductive organs, and skin. They also diagnose and treat such chronic adult conditions as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. They often consult with other medical specialists to treat patients.
How Do You Train for Internal Medicine?
To become an internist doctor, a graduate of a four-year medical school—such as the Ross University School of Medicine—must complete a residency in internal medicine, according to the American College of Physicians (ACP). During residency, doctors train extensively in hospitals and clinics. A residency in internal medicine is typically three years.
After residency, general internal medicine physicians are eligible for certification by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). A general internist is recognized as an expert in the diagnosis and treatment of illness and in disease prevention. Their practice focus is not limited to one type of medical problem or organ system.
The ACP reports that about half of all internists practice general internal medicine. These doctors serve as primary care physicians, caring for patients in both practice and hospital settings. Other internists take further training to subspecialize in a branch of internal medicine. Common subspecialties include:
- Hospital medicine
- Infection diseases
- Pulmonary care
An internal medicine resident may also combine training with another specialty, which allows them to be “double-boarded” by both the ABIM and the certification board of their other medical specialty. Common specialty residencies paired with internal medicine include:
- Emergency medicine
- Family medicine
- Medical genetics
- Preventive medicine
Some internists take training to develop research skills after residency, typically through a Ph.D. program or research fellowship. This requires still more years of training.
A Career in Internal Medicine
Because internists treat a broad scale of conditions, they have the option to work in a variety of settings. They may work in clinics, hospitals, or medical offices, and some work in a group or private practice. Most internists work a typical 40-hour work week and see about 20 to 25 patients per day, and many are also on-call—available for work at night or on days off.
Working hours can vary wildly, however, depending on medical situations and whether or not doctors have their own practice. Compared with other medical specialties, internal medicine physicians have more flexibility on the hours they work and the career path they choose.
Regardless of which subspecialty or career path an internal medicine physician takes, they have the opportunity to help patients manage overall health over a long period of time. With hard work and a dedicated passion for caring for others, internal medicine can be a very rewarding career to pursue.
Demand for Internal Medicine
A 2020 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) showed that the United States will see a shortage of nearly 122,000 physicians by 2033 as demand for doctors grows faster than supply. The report projects a shortage of up to 55,200 primary care doctors. It ranks internists second only to family medicine doctors as the most in-demand specialty in the coming decade.
As populations increase and people age, the demand for internists—and doctors in general—continues to grow. And, like doctors in all medical fields, internal medicine physicians are an aging population. As those doctors retire, the shortage of internists increases. In July 2020, another AAMC report showed that one third of U.S. physicians are age 60 or older, and well over half—57 percent—are over 50 years old.
The Ross University School of Medicine has a strong history of placing graduating students in internal medicine and specialist residencies. RUSM has a 90% first-time residency attainment rate for 2020-2021 graduates. Take the next step on your path to a specialization in internal medicine: apply for admission to RUSM.
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