Doctors are medical experts who provide health care to their patients. Some doctors work as general practitioners (GPs), who provide patient care to families and individuals. Their work involves evaluating patients, ordering tests, and referring patients to specialists. They may also prescribe medication or recommend other forms of treatment, such as physical therapy.
GPs can also refer patients to specialists. These are doctors who’ve focused on an area of treatment. For example, a medical doctor who evaluates patients to determine if they have cancer is known as an oncologist. Other specialists include psychiatrists, who treat mental health issues, and anesthesiologists, who administer anesthesia during surgery. The credentials required to become a doctor vary based on the medical specialty. Let’s look at the standard requirements to become a doctor in New York and the requirements for some typical medical specialties.
Doctors must have a medical degree.
A medical doctor must have a bachelor’s degree and complete prerequisite courses in biological sciences and other similar disciplines before applying to medical school. Once accepted to medical school, they spend four years earning their medical degree. Courses cover topics such as the practice of medicine, immunity in defense and disease, homeostasis, essentials of the profession, and mind, brain, and behavior.
Doctors must acquire practical experience.
After earning a medical degree, doctors must gain practical experience during a stage called residency. The length of your residency varies depending on the field of medicine you choose. You may complete a residency in pediatrics or family practice in three years, but a residency in neurological surgery takes six years. Neurosurgeons are spine trauma experts who evaluate patients with medical issues affecting their nervous systems. This includes diagnosing patients with brain or spine infections, treating patients with tumors, and treating patients who’ve suffered strokes. Some patients require spine surgery to address chronic pain caused by their physical conditions. For example, a patient with scoliosis may benefit from having a rod inserted, which helps straighten their spine. Aspiring neurosurgeons prepare for their careers by assisting licensed experts when they evaluate patients and perform spine surgery.
Doctors may need extra training for their field of expertise.
Medical fellowships are periods of training that follow residency. Doctors may opt to pursue a fellowship to acquire the skills and knowledge needed to work in a subspecialty. For example, pediatricians are medical doctors who treat children from infancy through age 18. A pediatrician may opt to complete a fellowship in child abuse, enabling them to identify child abuse and treat primary and secondary medical issues stemming from neglect and maltreatment. Other medical fellowships include endocrinology, gastroenterology, hematology, and infectious diseases.
Doctors must have a medical license.
A medical doctor must have a medical license to practice medicine, which involves taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The USMLE is broken into three parts. The first part of the test takes one day to complete and is usually completed after you’ve finished your second year of medical school. This is a multiple-choice test focused on anatomy, microbiology, pathology, immunology, behavioral sciences, pharmacology, biochemistry, physiology, aging, nutrition, and genetics.
The second part of the USMLE takes two days to complete. Fourth-year med school students must complete a multiple-choice exam covering clinical knowledge about surgery, gynecology, pediatrics, and other topics. The second day of the exam is a clinical skills exam. You’ll evaluate people posing as patients, diagnose them and determine how to treat their conditions. The third part of the exam also takes two days and focuses on patient care.
Doctors must maintain their medical licenses.
Once you obtain your New York physician license, you must maintain your license. Doctors in New York must register every two years to have a registered medical license to practice medicine. When there are potential misconduct or malpractice issues, a doctor’s license may be suspended or revoked. Attorneys specializing in health law, such as Howard Fensterman, can help doctors navigate medical licensing issues, allowing them to retain or regain their medical licenses.
New York doctors must graduate from medical school and complete residency. They must pass the licensing exam to earn their medical licenses and maintain their licenses to practice medicine.