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Internist Vs. Cardiologist

There are a lot of similarities in the work that some doctors do. This article looks at the common duties internists and cardiologists share, as well as some of the different tasks they perform.

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Comparing Internists to Cardiologists

Internists provide general medical care to patients. Cardiologists are internists who have specialized in one area of internal medicine. They need additional training and receive a notably higher salary than internists.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)*
Internists Medical degree, license, residency $183,367 17%
Cardiologists Medical degree, license, residency, fellowship $244,377 13% (physicians and surgeons, all other)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Internists vs. Cardiologists

Internists and cardiologists both evaluate patients and may order medical tests. Cardiologists also perform some medical tests themselves. Both internists and cardiologists identify their patient's condition and they may treat patients themselves or refer them to other medical specialists. The main distinction is that internists see patients with any kind of medical issue while cardiologists specialize in treating medical issues related to the heart. Individuals can make appointments with internists themselves but cardiologists typically see patients that are referred to them. Cardiologists may perform procedures on patients' arteries and other parts of their cardiovascular system.

Internists

Internists treat adults with a range of medical issues, including everything from headaches and sore throats to hypertension. There are many specialties in internal medicine that can be pursued with additional training, such as becoming an immunologist or a gastroenterologist. They may work in a medical office, clinic or hospital. Their hours may vary and if they work in a hospital it would be common for them to work any time of the day or night. They need to have strong problem-solving skills because they may see patients with different medical issues and need to be able to effectively diagnose them. They also need to be able to pay attention to detail so that they include all factors when reaching a diagnosis.

Job responsibilities of an internist include:

  • Examining patients
  • Traveling to hospitals to see patients
  • Sending patients to specialists
  • Having medical tests completed
  • Providing patients with healthcare information
  • Writing prescriptions

Cardiologists

Issues with a person's cardiovascular system and heart are treated by medical specialists known as cardiologists. There are a number of different types of cardiologists and those that focus on non-invasive work primarily spend their days seeing patients in an office while others divide their working hours between an office and lab or hospital. In addition to non-invasive cardiologists there are invasive non-interventional cardiologists, interventional cardiologists and electrophysiologists. Cardiologists should be compassionate and have good interpersonal skills because they treat patients with very serious medical conditions. They also need to have excellent fine motor skills to execute their tasks effectively.

Job responsibilities of a cardiologist include:

  • Assessing patients
  • Giving patients medical tests
  • Producing images of the heart
  • Educating patients about managing their condition with lifestyle changes
  • Performing cardiac cathertizations
  • Clearing arteries

Related Careers

Another option for aspiring internists is to pursue a different medical specialty and become a thoracic medicine specialist. Those considering cardiology may also be interested in becoming a cardiac surgeon because cardiac surgeons are qualified to operate on a person's heart.

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