Is becoming an internist right for me?
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How to become an Internist
Becoming an internist involves several years of education, training, and licensure. Here's a guide to help you become an internist:
- Complete a Bachelor's Degree: Obtain a bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university. While there is no specific major requirement for medical school, aspiring internists often choose science-related majors such as biology, chemistry, or biochemistry due to the relevance of coursework.
- Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT): Prepare for and take the MCAT, a standardized test that assesses your knowledge of natural, behavioral, and social science concepts and your problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Your MCAT scores are a crucial factor in medical school admissions.
- Attend Medical School: Enroll in and complete a Doctor of Medicine (MD) program or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) program at a reputable medical school. Medical school typically lasts for four years and includes both classroom-based learning and clinical rotations.
- Pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA): Aspiring MDs must pass the USMLE, while DOs must pass the COMLEX-USA to become licensed physicians. These exams assess your knowledge and ability to apply medical concepts and principles.
- Complete a Residency in Internal Medicine: After graduating from medical school, internists must complete a residency program in internal medicine, which typically lasts three years. During the residency, you gain hands-on experience, diagnose and treat patients, and work under the supervision of experienced physicians.
- Consider Subspecialty Training (Optional): After completing your internal medicine residency, you can choose to pursue fellowship training in a specific subspecialty of internal medicine (such as cardiology, gastroenterology, or pulmonology). Fellowships usually last two to three years and provide specialized training in a particular area of internal medicine.
- Obtain Medical Licensure: Obtain a medical license from the medical board in the state where you plan to practice. Licensure requirements vary by state but generally involve passing the appropriate licensing exams and meeting other criteria set by the state medical board.
- Become Board Certified (Optional): While board certification is not mandatory, becoming certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) demonstrates your expertise in internal medicine. To become board certified, you need to pass the ABIM certification examination.
- Maintain Continuing Medical Education (CME) Credits: Stay current in the field of internal medicine by participating in continuing medical education activities. Most states require physicians to earn a certain number of CME credits regularly to maintain their medical licenses.
- Seek Employment or Establish a Practice: After completing your training and obtaining licensure, you can either seek employment in hospitals, clinics, or healthcare organizations or establish your own internal medicine practice.
Internists can become board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), a prominent organization that sets standards and certifies physicians in the field of internal medicine. Board certification signifies that an internist has met rigorous standards of knowledge, skills, and clinical competence. Here's an overview of the board certification process for internists:
- Completion of an accredited internal medicine residency program
- Possession of a valid and unrestricted medical license
- Successful completion of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX-USA)
Internists are required to pass the ABIM Certification Examination, which assesses their knowledge, skills, and understanding of internal medicine principles, diseases, and patient care. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions and is administered over the course of a day. Physicians who pass the examination are considered board certified in internal medicine.
Maintenance of Certification (MOC):
Board certification is not a one-time achievement; it requires ongoing professional development and assessment of clinical skills. Internists are enrolled in the ABIM's Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program, which includes several components:
- Medical Knowledge Assessment: Internists are required to take and pass a secure, computer-based examination approximately every ten years to demonstrate their knowledge of internal medicine.
- Practice Assessment: Physicians participate in self-assessment activities and quality improvement projects designed to enhance the quality of patient care in their practice.
- Patient Voice: Internists collect and reflect on feedback from patients about their care experiences.
- Professionalism and Professional Standing: Physicians demonstrate a commitment to medical ethics, lifelong learning, and engagement in the assessment process.
Subspecialty Certification (Optional):
Internists who pursue additional training and education in a specific subspecialty, such as cardiology or gastroenterology, can become board certified in that subspecialty by passing the relevant ABIM subspecialty examination.