Internal medicine physicians diagnose, treat, and care for adult patients who suffer from a wide range of diseases and injuries. They conduct examinations, evaluate diagnostic tests, prescribe medications, and arrange for surgical procedures when necessary. A person who wants to become an internal medicine physician is typically required to complete medical school and at least four years of internship and residency training. In addition, a professional can choose to participate in a fellowship program to become an internal medicine physician in a particular specialty.
An individual who wants to become an internal medicine physician can gain important fundamental skills and knowledge at a four-year university or college. Most future physicians pursue bachelor's degrees in biology or health science with a focus on premedical studies. During undergraduate school, a student has the chance to learn about human physiology and anatomy, the nature of diseases, and basic methods of treatment. Near the end of a bachelor's degree program, an individual can take a medical college admissions test and begin applying to accredited schools.
Once a student is accepted into a medical school, he or she can expect to spend the first half of a program primarily in lecture courses and laboratories. He or she takes advanced courses in biology, pathology, pharmacology, and related topics to gain a detailed academic understanding of internal medicine. The second half is dedicated to practical instruction in actual hospitals and clinics, giving the student a chance to observe experienced doctors in their work. By succeeding in medical school, an individual can earn a Doctor of Medicine degree and apply for internship opportunities at hospitals.
Most internship programs last about one year and consist of supervised practice and detailed training in general medicine. After completing an internship a new doctor who wants to become an internal medicine physician can pursue a three-year residency program in the specialty. A resident sees patients, makes diagnoses, and determines treatment options under the guidance of a mentoring doctor. He or she can take an examination administered by a national governing board at the end of a residency to earn a license and officially become an internal medicine physician.
After earning a license, a new doctor can decide to join a two-year fellowship in a sub-specialty of internal medicine. Fellowship programs are available in cardiology, pulmonology, oncology, and several other disciplines. Gaining experience in residency training and taking additional certification exams qualifies a new doctor to work in hospitals, specialty clinics, joint practices, and private doctor's offices.