Pulmonology is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of lung diseases. Pulmonologists are sometimes referred to as chest physicians or lung specialists. The field has a broad scope and includes the treatment of many conditions from asthma to cancer, from tuberculosis to sleep disorders.
They often work with other healthcare professionals to diagnose illnesses and treat patients with lung disease. Some may even work with physical therapists to develop exercise programs geared towards improving lung health.
Read on to learn more about what it’s like to be a pulmonologist and what it takes to become one yourself.
Pulmonologist Job Duties
Typical job duties for pulmonologists include:
- Performing diagnostic procedures, such as pulmonary function tests, bronchoscopies, sputum analysis, biopsies, cultures, and arterial blood gas tests
- Providing patients with ongoing care for chronic conditions such as asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis or pneumonia
- Performing surgery to treat lung diseases or disorders that cannot be treated through other means
- Prescribing medications to help control symptoms of certain conditions
- Diagnosing and treating patients with pulmonary disorders, including asthma, emphysema, tuberculosis, pneumonia, lung cancer, interstitial lung disease, lung infections, and other conditions
- Providing medical care to patients in hospitals or intensive care units while supervising the work of other medical staff members
- Tracking patient’s progress with periodic follow up visits
Pulmonologist Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for pulmonologists is $295,000. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practice. The highest earners are bringing home more than $455,500 per year.
The employment of pulmonologists is expected to decline over the next decade. This is due to the growing number of primary care physicians providing care to patients with respiratory problems instead of specialists.
Pulmonologist Job Requirements
The requirements for a pulmonologist are as follows:
Education: Pulmonologists are required to have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree. These programs include clinical training, coursework and laboratory work. Many MD programs also require students to complete a research thesis.
Training: Pulmonologists complete three years to seven years of residency training. Their residency program will include rotations in internal medicine, surgery, intensive care, emergency care, radiology and pulmonary medicine. This training will equip pulmonologists with the tools they will use to diagnose and treat patients with respiratory-related issues.
Certifications & Licenses: All doctors are required to become licensed in the state where they practice. This license requires candidates to pass a medical examination. Pulmonologists must also become board certified in their specialty.
The following skills are required for this job:
Problem-solving skills: In addition to being able to quickly diagnose and treat patients, pulmonologists must be able to solve problems when patients present with complications or issues that aren’t covered in medical textbooks.
Communication skills: Pulmonologists often interact with other doctors and specialists, nurses, and patients’ families. They must also explain their diagnoses and treatment plans clearly to patients.
Time management skills: Pulmonologists must be able to manage their time well in order to keep up with patient schedules, work efficiently, and stay on top of new developments in the field.
Detail oriented: The work of a pulmonologist involves detailed examinations and tests that require attention to detail.
Ability to make decisions: Because your job often involves making critical decisions regarding patients’ care, pulmonologists must be able to make sound judgments quickly. They may need to refer patients to other specialists or recommend experimental treatments if traditional methods fail.
Pulmonologist Work Environment
Pulmonologists usually work in hospitals, offices, or clinics. They spend most of their time working with patients. Pulmonologists are sometimes called upon to treat emergencies, so they may have irregular schedules. They must be able to work long hours when necessary.
The job requires the stamina to be on one’s feet for long periods of time as well as the ability to make rapid, accurate decisions. The job can be stressful because it involves working with people who are very ill. The majority of a pulmonologist’s patients have a chronic disease that may eventually kill them if not treated properly. Some patients come into the office regularly for treatment while others require emergency care.
Pulmonologist Career Advancement
The pulmonologist’s education, experience, and ambition will determine which direction he or she takes. Some pulmonologists go on to become professors, while others go into research. Some may become medical directors of pulmonary centers. There are also opportunities for pulmonologists to become leaders in the American Thoracic Society, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Lung Association, or other professional organizations.
Here are three trends influencing how pulmonologists work. Pulmonologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Increasing Prevalence of Chronic Respiratory Conditions
The prevalence of chronic respiratory conditions, such as asthma and COPD, is increasing at an alarming rate. This is partially due to the increased popularity of tobacco products among young adults.
While many people assume that this increase in respiratory conditions is due to the development of more efficient methods for diagnosing these illnesses, there is another possible cause: many lung diseases are caused by viral infections or other environmental factors that cannot be identified through standard diagnostic tests.
Advances in Drug Delivery
Pulmonologists, or doctors who specialize in diseases of the lungs and respiratory tract, will increasingly need to focus on cutting-edge developments in drug delivery.
For example, lung cancer is currently one of the most common forms of cancer among men and women in the United States. However, there are some forms of treatment that can extend life expectancy significantly for patients who have non-small cell lung cancer. Advances in drug delivery will be essential for treating these patients with advanced care techniques.
Breathing Techniques To Ease Asthma Symptoms
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects nearly 300 million people worldwide, with children being especially susceptible to developing this condition.
However, there are several strategies that asthmatics can employ to help reduce the severity of their symptoms, including breathing techniques and relaxation techniques. For example, in one study of asthma patients in Kenya, the use of breathing exercises was found to significantly reduce hospital admissions for asthma-related illnesses among participants.
How to Become a Pulmonologist
1. Planning Your Career Path
If you are interested in becoming a pulmonologist, it is important to remember that this is a highly specialized field of medicine. It is not something that can be learned overnight, so it’s best to have patience and focus on developing your skills over time.
You may want to volunteer at a hospital or participate in some medical-related internships before you begin school; these experiences will give you an idea of whether or not this type of work environment is right for you.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for pulmonologists should list their medical degree and any certifications they have received. It’s important to include your medical degree as this is the primary skill necessary for the job.
In addition to your education and certification, you should also highlight any research papers, publications, or presentations that you have had the opportunity to contribute to. When describing your work history, be sure to list details such as the types of procedures that you performed and how much experience you have with them.
3. Applying for Jobs
To start your job search, reach out to medical associations that are relevant to your field. You can also use Twitter to reach out to people in the industry who may be able to connect you with current openings. Remember to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job opening; they’re all unique so you want to express exactly why you’re the right fit for the specific position. If you can, try to reach out to hiring managers directly.
4. Ace the Interview
In an interview, when asked to describe your work with patients, you should demonstrate a thorough knowledge of pulmonary diseases, how you diagnose and treat conditions in your patients’ lungs, and a clear understanding of the technologies and tools you use in the clinic. You should also show a great deal of compassion for your patients’ feelings and pain.
A good way to prepare for an interview for this position is to spend some time reading about the region you want to practice in. Medical journals are excellent resources, particularly if they focus on pulmonary medicine or conditions that affect the lungs. By reading these journals, not only will you increase your knowledge base, but you will also learn about current trends in your field.
When interviewing for a pulmonologist job, it is important to make a good impression on the interviewer. Be sure to dress professionally and be prepared with answers to questions about your medical school education and residency training—this is likely where most interview questions will focus. Also be ready with information on any research experience you’ve completed and any community outreach activities that add value to your qualifications for this job.