A Day in the Life of an Internist

An internist's day depends on the type of practice she's chosen.

An internist's day depends on the type of practice she's chosen.

Internists are doctors who diagnose and treat adult patients at all stages of health. They're usually the first doctor you'll see if you have a general issue and aren't sure which specialist to go to. They're different from general practitioners since they don 't work with kids or perform surgery. Internists can choose to work in hospitals, as instructors or in private practice.


Your day as a hospital internist starts with a check-in to see what's happened since you were last on the scene. You'll have to meet with all the attending nurses to learn about any changes or new patients, then with the patients themselves to introduce yourself or continue where you left off. Internists talk with staff members about how to approach each patient, and take notes at each step so there's a record of everything. The day really starts when you see new patients, assess their situation and admit them if necessary. Without a set schedule, you have to be on-call and ready for anything, and you can expect to stay at work until you're relieved by another doctor.

Private Practice

Sometimes internists open their own private practice. If you choose this path, expect third-party insurers to play a big role in your daily life. For example, if you see a patient with insurance brand X who pays $75 per office visit, you'll have to adjust the amount of time you spend with her if you want to make a profit. Private practice internists spend their days seeing patients, ordering and reviewing tests, and consulting patients on their health and well-being. Overall it's a less stressful career path even if it's less profitable.


If you want to share your knowledge with others, consider becoming an academic internist. Academics either split their schedule between patients and classes, or dedicate themselves to full-time hands-on instruction. With a split schedule, you'll spend about half the day seeing and treating patients in a hospital setting. The other half is spent in the classroom where academic study, writing and instruction are the goal. Full-time educators work with students treating patients in an academic hospital or clinic, so students can see a professional in her element while they get to try much of the work themselves.

Work-Life Balance

Some internists are also mothers, and keeping the fine balance between career and mothering is how most days are spent. Internists work long hours and have erratic schedules that leave little time to see family members. A typical day for an internist on the day shift involves leaving home before baby is up, spending the day seeing patients, going to staff meetings, handling admissions and sitting in on conferences. If all goes well, you can expect to get home by late evening in time to put the baby to bed. Don't get too comfortable though, in a few hours you'll need to turn in and start all over again tomorrow.

About the Author

Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.

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