Career Profile: Infectious Disease SpecialistFebruary 15, 2016
An infectious disease specialist is a medical doctor who treats patients with complex and unusual infections. They also treat patients whose cause of illness is unknown.
Infectious disease medicine requires substantial formal education as you will need to have a very strong understanding of subjects like microbiology and the management of diseases that are caused by a wide range factors. This specialised knowledge is required to diagnose these complex diseases and develop appropriate treatment plans.
Infectious disease specialists who work directly with patients usually start by reviewing a file that is sent by another healthcare specialist. This includes reviewing of the medical history of the patient along with various lab reports and X-rays. Samples of blood, tissue or other bodily fluids may be acquired from the patient, and these samples are tested in the laboratory for diseases that cause any symptoms that the patient is seen to exhibit. Once the disease has been identified, the doctor will then prescribe a treatment plan and medication for the patients.
Infectious disease specialists only diagnose the disease and treat it non-surgically. If surgery is required, they refer the patient to the appropriate surgeon for further treatment.
Infectious disease doctors will often see about 30 patients a week on an average. They also attend many case review meetings, conferences and referral meetings. Follow up appointments are also very common. Common issues seen include rashes, fever or stomach related problems, especially by people who have recently visited tropical areas.
Qualifications and training
If you want to become an infectious disease specialist, prepare yourself for a lot of study and training. You’ll have to complete up to ten years of study before you become completely qualified to practice as a doctor in this field. And this studying will not include your undergraduate studies.
You will first have to go through four years of medical school after completing your undergrad. Once that’s done, you will have to undergo three years of training in internal medicine and then another two years of specialised training in the field of infectious diseases.
You’ll also have to pass an exam to gain certification that qualifies you to practice in this field. It may be a long, daunting journey before you can start working, but the higher salaries and the high level of satisfaction will balance that out.
There are many career opportunities in this field so you can choose to work in different workplace settings based on what kind of work you enjoy. Some doctors decide to work in the public sector where they work with teams that do research on numerous diseases at a national level. Many dedicate their lives to treating and trying to cure HIV/AIDS.
Others may choose to work in a hospital or run private practices. These doctors interact with patients and focus on individual patient care when it comes to an infectious disease. Many doctors in this field also work with the other healthcare specialists in hospitals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among patients who have weak immune systems.
Pharmaceutical companies also hire infectious disease specialists to help with research for the development of new drugs.
Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.