Subspecialty Careers: General Internal Medicine
What is an Internist?
Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness.
The General Internist
General internists handle the broad and comprehensive spectrum of illnesses that affect adults, and are recognized as experts in diagnosis, in treatment of chronic illness, and in health promotion and disease prevention—they are not limited to one type of medical problem or organ system. General internists often care for patients over the duration of their adult lives, providing the physician an opportunity to establish long and rewarding personal relationships with their patients.
Most general internists provide care for their patients in an ambulatory (office or outpatient) setting, and in an inpatient setting when their patients become hospitalized. Still other general internists choose to care for patients either exclusively in the inpatient setting (often called hospitalists) or exclusively in an outpatient setting.
What Internal Medicine Means to Me Video
Meet some internists and hear about what internal medicine means to them.
After successful completion of medical school, those interested in becoming an internist will enter a residency program. Residency in internal medicine usually lasts three years, and residents work in a variety of settings, including university hospitals, community teaching hospitals, hospital outpatient clinics, and community physicians' offices. Residents assume progressive responsibility as they acquire various skills in treating hospitalized patients and gain competency in ambulatory care. The broad experience provided by three years of internal medicine residency provides the necessary training for practice as a general internist. For general internists who are interested in an academic career that includes a research component, a number of academic medical centers also offer general internal medicine fellowships following residency training.
For the 2014-2015 academic year, there were 396 Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME)-accredited training programs with 24,477 trainees.
The American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) offers certification for physicians interested in pursuing the field of internal medicine.
Major Professional Society
Additional Information on Internal Medicine
Have questions about training and careers in internal medicine? Search the ACP Mentoring Database to find an internal medicine physician who can answer your questions.
Read Understanding Internal Medicine: A Guide for Medical Students for more details on history, structure, and FAQs on internal medicine.