Graduating as an MD or nurse is a huge achievement, but for many clinicians, it represents just the start of their academic journey. It can take up to eight years of postgraduate training to qualify as a specialist, but that time varies depending on the path selected. There are hundreds of different medical specialties to consider, and this number increases when you consider the various sub-specialisms which offer additional support. Here’s a look at some of the best-known fields of US healthcare and the services they provide.
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Pathology is a single specialty that is made up of many smaller subspecialties. People who work in this field help their colleagues make a diagnosis by carrying out various investigations. These include hematology, blood, and microbiology tests, along with biopsies and cancer resections. As so much of a pathologist’s day involves working alone or analyzing sets of figures, a great deal of determination is required, along with plenty of self-discipline. This role would suit someone who prefers being in a lab to dealing with patients face to face. Excellent organizational skills and attention to detail are also desirable.
Healthcare administrators ensure a facility functions smoothly and that the medical team has everything they need to care for patients effectively. As the role includes coordinating clinical services, many healthcare administrators move to the position after working on the front line. Working nurses who plan to deepen their understanding of management and administration should consider the online MSN-MBA dual degree at Spring Arbor University. Aside from healthcare administration, there are several other specialisations on offer, so students can choose a pathway that relates to their preferred leadership role. People in this position play a fundamental role in compliance with government regulations, staffing, and finance. In larger facilities, several administrators are required to manage different areas, while in smaller clinics, one person will take charge.
Operations can be as simple as a tonsillectomy or as complex as open heart surgery. Surgeons choose a career path as part of their training. They might select urology, trauma surgery, plastic surgery, or general surgery, although many more options exist. Technology is increasingly used to help surgeons practice a procedure and to aid them with accuracy, but traditional tools such as scalpels, forceps, and skin staplers are still used. Aside from their work in the operating theatre, surgeons hold clinics to meet their patients, perform administrative tasks, such as writing letters and making calls, and take part in teaching sessions. Teamwork and communication skills are vital for surgeons as they work with others to save and improve patients’ lives. They also need the confidence to react swiftly and make potentially life-changing decisions during a procedure.
Another diverse specialty, pediatrics, encompasses intensive care, neonatology, and emergency medicine. During their training, a pediatrician will experience many different areas of practice, making it easier for them to choose a career. They could end up working in a local clinic or a hospital, depending on which aspect of childcare they train for. As they work primarily with children, they need to enjoy the company of young people and be able to communicate with them. Infants cannot explain their symptoms, so excellent diagnostic skills are important. Moreover, as there tends to be a team around each sick child, good team working is vital. Pediatricians require emotional resilience when managing emergencies or critical illnesses in children, but treating and curing young people is hugely rewarding.
Although the role is most often associated with managing operative procedures, anesthetists also spend a lot of their time outside of the theatre. They carry out ward rounds on units which deal with acute or chronic pain. They can also be found on labor wards, where they discuss pain relief options with moms-to-be, and intensive care units, where they ensure patients are kept comfortable. Anesthetists tend to focus on one type of patient or one subspecialty, but sometimes they are called upon to help elsewhere. The work may appear slow and steady, but when something goes wrong, during surgery, for example, they often have to manage very complicated situations.
Working in community clinics, prisons, hospitals, and schools, psychiatrists help to diagnose and then treat mental health problems. Their area of expertise could focus on childhood and adolescence, the elderly, or people who have learning disabilities, although many other subsections exist. In psychiatry, professionals spend lots of time with their patients and often manage their long-term care if they are discharged from a facility. The staff psychiatrists work with, as well as their patients, come from a diverse range of backgrounds, so the ability to communicate well is essential. Moreover, as individual patients are cared for by a group of people that may include nurses, social workers, and therapists, teamwork skills are important.
Dentists support the nation’s oral health by treating tooth decay, jaw injuries, and gum disease. They also provide cosmetic dental care such as cleaning the teeth, stripping away tartar, and fitting crowns or dentures where necessary. Dentists provide their patients with information and guidance on caring for their teeth, tongue, and gums. Therefore, their work focuses on protecting their patient’s teeth, as well as managing any problems they have. Dentists often have a clinic based in a small community, a town, or a city, but some also work in hospitals. They care for patients of all ages, from babies getting their first teeth to the elderly. Communicating well and remaining calm is essential. Many patients have a fear of the dentist, so a gentle, compassionate approach is needed.
Patients who have a problem with their eyes are referred to an ophthalmologist. They work to diagnose the disorder, then arrange a course of treatment and monitor the patient’s progress. Their scope of practice includes the entire visual system, and therefore they may use surgery as well as drug therapies. Ophthalmologists work with patients of all ages, and although they rarely become involved in life-saving care, their work to restore sight or relieve pain can be life-changing. The conditions most often encountered by clinicians in this specialism are glaucoma, squints, cataracts, and chronic diseases, including macular degeneration. Ophthalmology departments in clinics, hospitals, and specialist eye treatment centers are open during regular working hours. Ophthalmologists need to remain calm under pressure and work as part of a multidisciplinary team when the patient’s care requires a holistic approach.
As the name suggests, nuclear medicine is a branch of healthcare that uses radioactive substances to deliver patient care. This includes examining patients, diagnosing them, and providing treatment for serious conditions. People in this field work in a hospital throughout their career, but they often need to liaise with other departments, such as oncology or radiology, as part of a patient’s treatment plan. Over the course of a week, they will take part in reporting sessions where they share their findings with a wider team of people. They will review patients and help them prepare for a test or therapy which involves nuclear medicine. As well as treating cancer, they help people recover from inflammatory arthritis, benign thyroid disease, and many other conditions. This is an extremely varied role, as nuclear medics care for all ages and give each individual reassurance about the therapy they are receiving.
When a patient is affected by a condition of the skin, nails, or hair, they are referred to a dermatologist. These professionals can help with common problems such as eczema and acne, as well as more serious conditions such as cancer of the skin. Patients of all ages can visit the same dermatologist, from newborn babies to seniors. Most have a problem that is significantly impacting their life, so by providing relief or even a cure, dermatologists can make a huge difference. With experience, some move on to work as skin surgeons, and here their work often includes dealing with skin cancer. In either role, dermatologists need to remain calm and patient, as well as have excellent diagnostic abilities.
Neurologists are involved in diagnosing and treating conditions of the brain and spinal cord. They help patients to manage muscle and nerve disorders, especially those which involve movement and the transmission of messages from the brain to the body. It can be a demanding role because there are so many conditions that can impact the brain. As well as epilepsy, Parkinson’s and meningitis, people who have had a stroke may have received damage to an area of their brain and will also require the help of a neurologist. They work in regional clinics and city hospitals, though some may also spend time teaching or mentoring. As well as holding regular meetings with the facility’s neurological team, they see patients on ward rounds and in outpatient departments. This is a rapidly changing field of medicine, with new treatments and types of therapy constantly being researched. Therefore, it’s an exciting career for anyone who dreams of being on the cutting edge of medical advancements.