Physicians have to comprehend every facet of the human body and keep up with the rapid pace of new scientific discovery and research in their field.
Physicians have the daunting task of keeping society healthy—which is no small feat. Physicians have to comprehend every facet of the human body and keep up with the rapid pace of new scientific discovery and research in their field. Procedures, medications and the healthcare industry are constantly evolving and changing which makes the role even more complex and dynamic. In this article, we examine what it means to be a doctor in the 21st century, as well as discuss the various kinds of medical specialists.
What Do Doctors Do?
Most people have a primary care physician (PCP) who oversees their general healthcare. The PCP is then charged with the responsibility of referring the patient to appropriate medical specialists in a timely manner to diagnose and treat reported medical conditions. Doctors have the professional responsibility to:
- Provide preventive healthcare checkups such as annual physicals, immunization updates and health screenings (blood pressure, prostate cancer, etc.), Pap smears, lipid profiles and other appropriate screening studies.
- Diagnose medical conditions.
- Prescribe the appropriate medical treatment, including medications, weight management techniques and various therapeutic treatments.
- Refer patients to a medical specialist for diagnosis and treatment of specific conditions.
- Deliver follow-up care for any and all diagnosed conditions.
- Reevaluate the outcome of the prescribed treatments and adjust them as needed for the well-being of the patient.
Rewards of the Profession
While medical outcomes are not always successful, watching a patient recuperate and go on to lead a productive life is professionally, and often personally, rewarding for physicians.
Stress, Hours, Workload and Work Environment
Dealing with human life is a serious profession. There are many detours that can occur along the way in medicine. Stress varies in the medical profession, based upon the specialty and healthcare facility in which a physician chooses to practice. For example, working in an emergency room or operating room typically leads to more stress than practicing as a podiatrist.
Healthcare is a business. Doctors are under pressure from internal administration to increase their patient visits. Outside of the hospital, health insurance companies scrutinize physicians orders and threaten to lower reimbursement for healthcare. The administrative pressure associated with medical care is assuredly a major stress factor for doctors.
After navigating the long, grueling hours of medical school, residency and an internship, a practicing physician is usually accustomed to a very hectic schedule. Depending upon the chosen specialty, hours vary but most physicians work far more than the standard 40-hour workweek. Office hours, preceded or followed by hospital rounds and consultations (plus extended hours in the operating or procedure room) account for the total number of hours worked.
Who Are the Specialists?
Doctors or physicians working in a medical specialty are board certified to acknowledge and confirm their expertise as a specialist. Here are several examples of particular medical specialties:
Adolescent Medical Doctor: This physician treats the medical, emotional and social issues facing teenagers, as well as providing preventive healthcare and wellness exams. Their treatment plans cover everything from eating disorders, weight management and gynecology issues to social pressure, learning disabilities and stress management.
Allergy and Immunologist: Treating patients who exhibit an allergic reaction to environmental and other substances is the focus of this physician. Asthma, hay fever, allergic reactions to dust, mold, animals, medicines or other allergens fall under the realm of this specialty. This specialist also manages immune system deficiencies, like hypogammaglobulinemia.
Cardiologist: Conditions of the heart, arteries and veins are diagnosed and treated by a cardiologist. A cardiovascular surgeon works to surgically correct many different heart conditions, like coronary bypass, valve replacement and congenital heart defects.
Endocrinologist: This specialty physician treats conditions of the glands and hormones, including diabetes, thyroid, adrenal and pituitary gland conditions as well as problems involving the ovaries and testes.
Gastroenterologist: Diagnosis and treatment of digestive system disorders include those having to do with the stomach, esophagus, intestines, gall bladder, liver and pancreas. The conditions that this specialist treats range from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and ulcers to hepatitis and colitis.
Geriatrics (Gerontologist): Caring for the elderly population is the main focus of this medical specialty. The physical, psychological and social problems of this expanding population are addressed with compassion and expertise.
Hematologist: This medical specialist treats blood disorders ranging from anemia and blood clotting disorders to cancer and lymphoma. A hematologist often specializes in cancer treatment, as well.
Infectious Disease: Treating patients with infectious diseases, ranging from influenza (flu) to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV and AIDS.
Nephrologist: A nephrologist treats diseases of the kidneys. The treatments can include dialysis and medical care while the patient awaits a kidney transplant.
Oncologist: Medical oncologists treat cancer patients with chemotherapy, along with pain medication to manage discomfort and other drugs needed to control the side effects of chemotherapy drugs.
Radiation oncologists manage cancer by delivering therapeutic radiation to shrink or eradicate a tumor. This specialist determines the type of radiation and the length of the treatment cycle.
Pulmonologist: This physician specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases involving the respiratory system: pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Rheumatologist: Rheumatologists diagnose and treat diseases involving the joints, muscles and bone. Their expertise includes treating such conditions as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, gout and osteoporosis.
Sports Medicine Doctor: This physician is an orthopedic specialist who diagnoses and treats exercise and sports-related injuries.
Dermatologist: Treating all types of skin conditions and disorders demonstrates the expertise of this specialist. Treating warts, acne, and diagnosing and treating all types of skin cancer fall into this category.
Gynecologist: Diagnosing and treating female reproductive conditions is the work of a gynecologist. This physician is also an important health maintenance provider of Pap smears and mammography screenings.
Obstetricians are specialty gynecologists who care for women during pregnancy and childbirth.
Neurologist: A specialist in diseases of the nervous system, a neurologist treats patients who have suffered a stroke, seizure disorder, head injury or have Alzheimer's disease.
Neurosurgeons treat brain tumors, cervical and lumbar spine disorders and other neurovascular conditions with surgical intervention.
Otolaryngologist: This ear, nose and throat specialist treats a wide range of maladies, ranging from hearing loss and tonsillitis to deviated septum and cancer of the larynx. Otolaryngologists treat patients with medical and surgical interventions.
Urologist: This physician treats all aspects of the urinary tract system, both male and female. This includes diagnosis and treatment of the prostate gland, bladder and remaining urinary tract structures.
Family Practice Physician/General Practitioner: This physician is qualified to care for the entire family, from infancy through geriatrics. A family practice physician has knowledge of pediatric health concerns through adolescence as well as adult health maintenance and care.
Orthopedic Surgeon: Orthopedic health concerns include all issues involving the musculoskeletal system, joints and bones. This physician treats bone fractures, deformities and joint replacement.
Hospitalist: A relatively new specialty, the hospitalist is a hospital-based physician who oversees a patient's care from admission to discharge. They work closely with the primary care physician for major decision making but provide 24-hour physician coverage throughout the hospital.
Psychiatrist: This physician diagnoses and treats mental and behavioral disorders using prescribed medications and other treatments. Depression, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder a few of the many diagnoses they treat.