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Endocrinologist


Description

If you have a hormonal disorder like diabetes or a thyroid problem, chances are you see an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists care for patients with complex hormonal disorders and metabolic conditions. Other common endocrine problems include metabolic bone disease, pituitary and adrenal conditions, osteoporosis, growth disorders, and lipid and nutritional disorders.

Simply put, endocrinology is the study of endocrine glands - a group of glands in the body, which secrete hormones, evoking specific responses in other cells of the body and control basic bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and sexual development. These hormones travel to their target organs and cells and then bind to receptors either on cell surfaces or inside the cell. This results in a change in the activity of those cells. Endocrine responses are relatively slow, taking from seconds to days to occur.

The amount of hormones produced by each gland is carefully balanced. Too much or too little of a certain hormone can have effects throughout the body and cause various endocrine disorders. For example, in Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas does not produce any insulin, thereby requiring the diabetic to inject the insulin hormone into their body in order to regulate and maintain balance in the endocrine system.

Endocrinologists are trained to recognize problems with hormones and restore the natural balance of hormones in a patient's system. In addition, endocrinologists conduct research on the basic and clinical aspects of endocrine glands and disorders. They also provide treatment for a wide range of functions and disorders of the endocrine system, including metabolism, hormonal imbalances, menopause, osteoporosis and cholesterol disorders. Endocrinologists also develop new drugs and treatments for hormonal disorders.

Among the most common illnesses associated with endocrine disorders are diabetes and hypothyroidism, which can cause hormonal imbalances such as obesity, immune problems, kidney failure, fertility problems and even heart disease and cancer. Endocrinologists help many of their patients treat their disorders and diseases with medication and proper diet. They also educate people and recommend exercise and other lifestyle health choices.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Endocrinologists are interested in helping people, first and foremost. They have the intellectual ability required to successfully complete the academic training and to pursue a course of lifelong learning and the stamina required to work long hours. They have excellent communication skills and can get along with people well and instill confidence. They will need emotional strength and maturity, and passion, empathy and energy.

Endocrinologists should enjoy finding solutions to problems, dealing with people, and directing the work of others. They must also be proficient in endocrine medicine - they must have and apply the knowledge to diagnose illnesses. Also, ethics is a strong point for these types of people because they have to do what is right for their patients with their best interests in mind.
 

  Typical Tasks  
  • Examine patients, order laboratory tests, x-rays and other diagnostic procedures and consult with other medical practitioners to evaluate patients' endocrine system
  • Prescribe and administer appropriate medications and treatments, which may involve giving simple lifestyle advice
  • Advise patients on health care, especially for diabetics, and counsel patients on diet and preventative health care
  • Coordinate their work with nurses, social workers, rehabilitation therapists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health care providers
  • Teach medical students and other health professionals
  • Endocrinologists working conditions depend on where they work. Yet most endocrinologists work long days, about 60 to 70 hours per week. They may work rotating shifts or be on call. When on call, they can be called into the hospital at any time, day or night. Some also work evenings and weekends to accommodate patient's schedules. In a typical day, most endocrinologists see a succession of patients, and may spend a considerable amount of time doing paperwork. This occupation can be both emotionally demanding and emotionally rewarding.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Endocrinologists work in hospitals, universities, have their own private practice or work with a group of other specialists in a group practice. Some also work for pharmaceutical companies and research facilities.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Endocrinologists can learn new skills, add more patients, or change jobs. They may work primarily as surgeons, directors of research, hospital administrators, medical school administrators, and teachers in medical schools and residency programs. They may manage clinics or do research for pharmaceutical companies. They may also write and publish in scientific and medical journals or take jobs in medical public relations.
 

  Educational Paths  
Becoming an endocrinologist requires a long educational road, so be prepared for a lifelong learning experience. Most endocrinologists start with a Bachelor of Science degree, however some Bachelor of Arts graduates may be accepted into medical school programs. While in high school, take math and science classes. Also, not all medical schools require a bachelor's degree and with good marks, some students can get accepted after two years of undergraduate study. Check with the school for their requirements before applying.

Endocrinologists complete four years of medical school and then spend three or four years in an internship and residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, or obstetrics and gynecology. Then, they must spend an additional two or three years learning how to diagnose and treat hormone-related disorders and diseases. Completion of the qualifying licensing examinations is required to practice medicine. Licensure by the regional licensing authority is required.

Finally, before entering medical school, volunteer in a hospital, nursing home or community center. This will give you valuable experience in dealing with people who need help and what it is like to work as a doctor.
 

Sources:
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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