What Is Internal Medicine?

I'm sure you've heard of it, but what is internal medicine and how is it different than general practice physicians? Well, an internist, or doctor who practices internal medicine, focuses on adult medicine only. They specialize in treating and preventing adult diseases and conditions. Often, internists are sought by other doctors for consults. The focus on treating and preventing internal diseases and conditions, such as those that affect the lungs, heart and other internal organs. Internists most commonly practice in hospitals, but do make clinical visits. It's common for an internists to supervise outpatient care as well.

The term "internal medicine" is derived from the German language, when the practice first appeared in the late 1800s. Internal medicine began as a combination of science and patient care. It's believed, the first internal medicine doctors in the United States studied in Germany and later brought the practice back to the United States. In European countries, internists often have office-based locations, which is less common in the United States.

Many internists act as primary care physicians, however, they aren't family practitioners or general practitioners. That's because their training doesn't include obstetrics, pediatrics or surgery. Internists are specially trained to deal with a wide variety of illnesses and conditions, as well as substance abuse, women's health and mental health. They can also treat problems of the reproductive and nervous system, and the ears, eyes and skin. Internists strive to ensure the patient fully understands every aspect of their illness or disease. Internists rarely treat children.

Internists require more training than general practitioners because many specialize in a certain field. They require a postgraduation training in order to become an internist. For example, cardiologists practice a form of internal medicine. Therefore, the cardiologist would require extra training to specialize in heart disease. Often, an internist will require as much as three years of extra training and will need to participate in an internal medicine residency. Due to their extra training, other physicians consult with internists when dealing with particular cases because they have more experience within a broad field.