Internist Vs. Gastroenterologist

Internists and gastroenterologists are both medical specialists. This article explores some of the common general tasks they perform, as well as how their training requirements and duties differ.

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Comparing Internists to Gastroenterologists

Internists and gastroenterologists are both internal medicine doctors. The key distinction is that gastroenterologists complete additional training to specialize in the type of internal medicine they practice. They also earn substantially higher salaries.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2018)* Job Outlook (2016-2026)**
Internists Medical degree, license, internship, residency, certification $183,367 17%
Gastroenterologists Medical degree, license, residency, fellowship $301,036 13% (physicians and surgeons, all other)

Sources: *PayScale, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Internists vs. Gastroenterologists

Internists and gastroenterologists share many similar general duties, such as seeing patients and reviewing their medical histories. Both internists and gastroenterologists may refer patients for medical tests and use the test results to inform their diagnosis of the patient. Gastroenterologists routinely perform medical tests themselves and concentrate specifically on treating digestive problems and issues with a patient's liver. Internists treat a wider range of general health problems, including everything from headaches to diabetes. Internists may determine a patient's condition warrants that they be referred to a specialist, such as a gastroenterologist. Both internists and gastroenterologists may provide patients with prescriptions and teach them ways to manage their health issues.

Internists

Internists can work in hospitals, clinics or doctors' offices. They often work long hours and may also spend part of their time on call. They are similar to family practitioners because they provide primary medical care to their patients but they mainly treat adults and the elderly. It's important that they are compassionate since they spend their time treating people who are ill. They also need strong communication and leadership skills so that they can effectively direct nurses and other medical staff. Internists can opt to complete a fellowship to specialize in a specific area of internal medicine, such as immunology or cardiology.

Job responsibilities of an internist include:

  • Evaluating patients
  • Determining which medical tests are needed
  • Identifying the medical condition affecting patients
  • Performing medical tests
  • Performing minor procedures such as removing moles
  • Educating patients on health care

Gastroenterologists

Gastroenterologists are internists with the training needed to concentrate on treating patients with digestive health issues. It's common for them to spend a fair bit of their time working in a medical office but they may also work in hospitals or clinics. Their hours can vary based on where they work and whether they are required to work on call. They need to be compassionate because their work involves treating patients with sensitive medical issues and they also need to have good problem-solving skills so that they can effectively diagnose patients.

Job responsibilities of a gastroenterologist include:

  • Conducting procedures such as colonoscopies
  • Performing patient examinations
  • Informing primary care physicians of their patients' condition
  • Developing a treatment plan
  • Completing medical tests such as hemostasis
  • Writing prescriptions for patients

Related Careers

Since internists and gastroenterologists are both internal medicine doctors those considering either career may also be interested in other internal medicine specialties, such as cardiology. Aspiring gastroenterologists may also want to consider becoming a surgical oncologist so that they can perform surgery on patients instead of the procedures gastroenterologists perform.

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