How to Become a Pulmonologist

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Pulmonology is a branch of internal medicine that focuses on conditions related to the lungs and respiratory system. Pulmonologists are specially trained medical doctors that diagnose and treat a variety of conditions related to the pulmonary system.


Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does a pulmonologist do?

Pulmonologists diagnose and treat many different conditions, infections, and diseases related to the respiratory system including the lungs, bronchial tubes, nose, throat, and pharynx. They assess patient medical history, perform physical examinations and diagnostic tests, and discuss treatment options with patients. They often use imaging technologies for assistance in diagnosis. Pulmonologists work with patients with many conditions such as asthma, pneumonia, emphysema, tuberculosis, chest trauma, and chest infections. They provide a variety of treatments options such as oral or inhalation medication, oxygen therapy, and mechanical ventilation.

What kind of training does a pulmonologist need?

Pulmonologists must complete an undergraduate degree, medical school, an internship, residency training, and fellowship training. Medical school provides intensive instruction and clinical rotations of all the major medical disciplines. After medical school, prospective pulmonologists must complete an internship and residency training in internal medicine. Residency training providing intensive instruction on all organ systems and students gain practical experience working directly with patients. Prospective pulmonologists must complete additional fellowship training in pulmonology. They learn lung diseases and many different treatments. Some pulmonologists complete additional training to specialize in a specific area such as critical care or pediatric pulmonary medicine. All pulmonologists must become licensed in the state they intend to practice. They must also become board certified from the American Board of Internal Medicine. Pulmonologists must stay up to date on the current advancements in the field and they must constantly improve their skills. They often complete continuing education courses and attend workshops, conferences, and seminars throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a pulmonologist?

Employment of all physicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased need for intensive care and mechanical ventilation will drive job growth of pulmonologists.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for pulmonologists with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace pulmonologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do pulmonologists make?

As of December 2009, the average annual salary for pulmonologists is $160,000; average annual pulmonologist salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a pulmonologist is an excellent choice for individuals with a strong interest in pulmonology and providing care to a variety of patients. Pulmonologists must have a solid understanding of the structure of the respiratory system and the treatment of many different conditions. Patience, motivation, eye-hand coordination, determination, and good problem solving skills are essential characteristics. Pulmonologists must have excellent bedside manner and communication and the ability to help patients feel at ease.

Joshua T Osborne

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