Becoming a doctor is a complicated and hard path on its own. Since the field of medicine and surgery is so diverse, there are multitude options to choose from. Becoming an internist is one such career option.

So, how to become an internist and what exactly do they do? Let’s find out.

What Is an Internist?

Internists are doctors who practice internal medicine. They are physicians, who can diagnose patients and provide treatment (non surgical) for a vast range of medical conditions that affect the internal systems in a human body. These internal systems can include kidneys, stomach, digestive tract, liver, and more. Internists use a wide variety of techniques to diagnose and treat their patients.

Internists can work at a hospital or start their own private practice. They often travel between the hospitals they work at, and their private practice to provide healthcare to their patients. Here are a few things internists do:

  • Diagnose their patients for conditions in the internal systems
  • Analyse their patients’ medical history
  • Develop a treatment trajectory by comparing charts, patient information and previous medical tests
  • Review patient diagnostics to identify conditions, and prepare a treatment plan (non surgical)
  • Educate patients on their conditions, and address their concerns and questions
  • Educate patients on various topics such as nutrition, hygiene, lifestyle choices, etc.

How to Become an Internist?

To become an internist, the process begins with obtaining an undergraduate degree in medical sciences, which lasts for four years. Students aiming to become a physician can also do a pre-med course in their interest of speciality to train for medical school.

After joining a medical school, the main goal is to enhance your knowledge in medical science with in-depth courses in physiology, anatomy, and internal systems. Other subjects like histology, pathology are also imperative during this course. Classroom education is coupled with rotations in healthcare institutions for a comprehensive training for the students. After completing the undergraduate degree in medical school, aspiring internists must obtain a doctor of medicine (MD) degree or a doctor of osteopathy (DO) degree.

After completing the MD or DO degree, the aspiring internists’ next step is to become a resident doctor in internal medicine for a course of three to four years. During this residency, the aspiring internists practice internal medicine under the supervision of experienced professions.

Residency can include various elements like rotations in a hospital or medical institutions, practicing in subspecialty clinics, intensive care unity, outpatient clinincs, and more. During the residency period, the aspiring internist trains rigorously in their area of internal medicine specialty, picking up important skills like treatments, diagnostics, and much more. 

After completing the residency, the aspiring internist just has one step remaining: passing the board certificate exam to obtain a licence. In the US, this exam is conducted by the American Board of Internal Medicine. Passing this exam gives the internist their license, and they are deemed qualified to practice internal medicine.

So, how long does it take to become an internist? It can range between 8-12 years depending on the duration of residency and degrees. Now that we have answered the question how to become an internist, let’s wrap up by checking the various subspecialties in internal medicine:

  • Endocrinology – diagnosis and treatment of internal systems like glands and hormones for regulating bodily activities
  • Cardiology – treatment of heart conditions
  • Gastroenterology – treatment of internal systems like digestive system and the stomach
  • Oncology – treatment of cancer
  • Rheumatology – treatment of internal systems like joints, muscle, and bone problems
  • Pulmonology – treatment of lungs