About Internal Medicine

Doctors of internal medicine focus on adult medicine and have had special study and training focusing on the prevention and treatment of adult diseases. At least three of their seven or more years of medical school and postgraduate training are dedicated to learning how to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases that affect adults. Internists are sometimes referred to as the “doctor’s doctor,” because they are often called upon to act as consultants to other physicians to help solve puzzling diagnostic problems.

What’s an “internist”?

Simply put, doctors of internal medicine are Doctors for Adults. But you may see them referred to by several terms, including “internists,” “general internists” and “doctors of internal medicine.” But don’t mistake them with “interns,” who are doctors in their first year of residency training. Although internists may act as primary care physicians, they are not “family physicians,” “family practitioners,” or “general practitioners,” whose training is not solely concentrated on adults and may include surgery, obstetrics and pediatrics.

Caring for the whole patient

Internists are equipped to deal with whatever problem a patient brings — no matter how common or rare, or how simple or complex. They are specially trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and can handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time. They also bring to patients an understanding of wellness (disease prevention and the promotion of health), women’s health, substance abuse, mental health, as well as effective treatment of common problems of the eyes, ears, skin, nervous system and reproductive organs.

Caring for you for Life

In today’s complex medical environment, internists take pride in caring for their patients for life — in the office or clinic, during hospitalization and intensive care, and in nursing homes. When other medical specialists, such as surgeons or obstetricians, are involved, they coordinate their patient’s care and manage difficult medical problems associated with that care.

Internal medicine subspecialties

Internists can choose to focus their practice on general internal medicine, or may take additional training to “subspecialize” in one of 13 areas of internal medicine. Cardiologists, for example, are doctors of internal medicine who subspecialize in diseases of the heart. The training an internist receives to subspecialize in a particular medical area is both broad and deep. Subspecialty training (often called a “fellowship”) usually requires an additional one to three years beyond the standard three year general internal medicine residency.

What does “internal medicine” mean?

The term “Internal Medicine” comes from the German term Innere Medizin, a discipline popularized in Germany in the late 1800s to describe physicians who combined the science of the laboratory with the care of patients. Many early 20th century American doctors studied medicine in Germany and brought this medical field to the United States. Thus, the name “internal medicine” was adopted. Like many words adopted from other languages, it unfortunately doesn’t exactly fit an American meaning.

When Should You See an Internist?

Once a person reaches the age of 18 years, this person already can seek for a medical aid of an internist, choosing a specific internal medicine subspecialty if needed. When an individual selects an internist, this individual may stay with this doctor for many decades to come. Due to this, the patient will have an opportunity to build the long-lasting patient-doctor relationship based on trust and full confidentiality. This is a key for the effective prevention and treatment of many medical conditions.

The patients should see the internists routinely. The frequency of the internist’s consultations depends on the medical condition the patient suffers from. These conditions may be related to a broad range of medical subspecialties such as nephrology, cardiology, rheumatology, pulmonology, and many others. That’s why you may visit your internist if you need to choose and take diet pills in order to combat the excessive weight and obesity issue as well as to cure arthritis, kidney disease, heart disease, chronic lung disorder, diabetes, hypertension, and so on.

Regardless of the medical problem, you should first of all see your internist, and then the internist can refer to the specialists in other medicine realms if your situation demands this. So, the internist may also treat you in the conjunction with the other medical professionals.

What Procedures Do Internists Do?

The internists may do a variety of medical procedures. But these procedures differ substantially depending on the specialty and institution. In particular, the internists do venipuncture needed for blood tests, arterial puncture required for blood gases, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and endotracheal intubation. The internists are also often responsible for the insertion of urinary catheters, nasogastric tubes, and IV lines.

To perform such procedures, the internists have to acquire special skills and apply them in practice frequently in order to bring to naught the risk of complications and discomfort in patients.

There are also some more therapeutic and diagnostic procedures which demand more invasion but are still performed by the internists. These procedures include paracentesis, lumbar puncture, and thoracentesis. The other, more complicated medical procedures require additional qualification and training. They are typically performed by the other specialists.

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