Pulmonology Career Guide: Qualifications, Job Description & CareerDecember 30, 2013
A pulmonologist is an internal medicine physician that specializes in preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases that affect the lungs, bronchial tubes and the respiratory system including the nose, pharynx and throat. These conditions can also affect the chest, so pulmonologists also receive training in diagnosing and treating conditions and diseases of the chest, such as asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis, pneumonia and other complicated chest infections. Like other physician specialties, as a pulmonologist you can sub-specialize in one of several areas, including sleep disorders, severe allergies or critical care medicine, where you will treat the majority of your patients in the ICU. Pulmonologists are also called respiratory physicians in Australia.
While most major surgical procedures done in the chest and upper respiratory system are performed by thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists also perform various specialized procedures in order to obtain samples of the lungs or the chest wall lining. They also specialise in procedures such as angiographic visualization, in which dye is sent through into the pulmonary arteries in order to view and observe the blood vessels that are inside the lungs.
As a pulmonologist, other job functions you are likely to perform include:
- Treating diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease as well as a wide range of conditions that can affect the functioning of the brain, lung, and gastrointestinal tract.
- Administering immunizations to protect patients from diseases that are preventable.
- Conducting research to test or develop new medications or methods of treatment
- Providing consulting services to other physicians
As a pulmonologist you might work in a hospital, medical school, private practice, clinic or research facility. You can expect to work close to 50 or 60 hours a week if you work in a hospital that requires you to be on call or if you do lots of consults whereas if you work in the research sector or private practice you will be more likely to work a regular 40 hour week.
In order to become a pulmonologist, you will have to complete a 4 year medical school program followed by a 3 year residency in internal medicine. You will then have to complete 1 to 3 years of fellowship training in pulmonology. Before being able to practice you will need to pass a string of certification and licensing exams in order to get a license and become board certified. Most internists must also become board certified in internal medicine, which you can obtain by passing the board exams.
The average annual salary for a pulmonologist in Australia is about AUD 152,381 with a starting salary of AUD 45,000 for interns and the potential to earn up to AUD 200,000 as a consultant specialist.
As with most other physician or surgeon specialties, the job outlook for this speciality is very good. Pulmonologists are expected to be in great demand for a long time to keep up with the projected need for mechanical ventilation and the specialized care of pulmonologists as the baby boom generation reaches and passes retirement age.