Internal medicine is a medical specialty which focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of nonsurgical conditions in adults. This specialty has a number of subspecialties ranging from nephrology, the study of the kidneys, to immunology, the study of allergies and immune system disorders. A doctor who is certified in this specialty is known as an internist; many adults around the world use internists as their primary care physicians. Internists should not be confused with interns, first-year doctors undergoing supervised post-graduate training.
This medical specialty is incredibly varied, because it focuses on the whole body of the patient. Although the name suggests internal organs, internists also treat external conditions. Internists are often used to solve medical puzzles, since they are familiar with a wide range of medical conditions and their causes. Specialists in internal medicine treat people with all sorts of conditions, from hepatitis to cancer, and careers in internal medicine are incredibly varied. Many hospitals keep a staff of internal medicine specialists to care for their patients, and internists also work out of their own clinics and offices.
Diagnosis and treatment of conditions is an important role in an internist's job. Internists can use an assortment of diagnostic techniques including fluid analysis and diagnostic imaging to get information about their patients. They also interview and examine their patients to learn more about the patient's condition, and many internists develop an excellent bedside manner to make their patients feel at ease while they discuss their medical problems. Most internists also promote prevention of common and avoidable conditions.
Some well known subspecialties in internal medicine include cardiology, endocrinology, rheumatology, infectious disease, hematology, gastroenterology, oncology, and pulmonology. In plain English, these specialists deal with hearts, the endocrine system, immune disorders, infectious biological diseases like viruses, blood, the digestive tract, cancer, and the lungs, respectively. A general internist may refer a patient to a specialist if he or she feels that a treatment requires special care. Specialists tend to make higher salaries, in recognition of their unique skills.
In order to become an internist, someone must complete medical school and a residency. Residency periods vary, depending on the nation, with additional residencies required for subspecialties. Once qualified, an internist can pursue board certification with an organization like the American Board of Internal Medicine. Board certification increases the hirability of an internal medicine specialist, and it also tends to boost patient confidence.