In the medical field, there are many specialties of medicine, and almost every specialty has a subspecialty. Here’s a look at some of the specialties (and subspecialties) of medicine, what types of physicians work in these areas, and where these physicians can find employment.
Rehabilitation and physical medicine is the medical specialty that diagnoses, treats, and manages patients with disorders and disabilities in the muscles, bones, and nervous system. Subspecialties in this specialty include:
- Brain injury medicine (traumatic brain injuries)
- Neuromuscular medicine (ALS, muscular dystrophy, myasthenia gravis, etc.)
- Pain medicine (acute/chronic, cancer, etc.)
- Pediatric rehabilitation medicine (children)
- Spinal cord injury medicine (arthritis, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida, etc.)
- Sports medicine (sport and exercise injuries)
Rehabilitation and physical medicine physicians typically work in rehabilitation centers that focus on treating patients with physical disabilities and disorders. However, their specialty may also affect where they work.
Preventive medicine is focused on promoting and maintaining health to prevent illness, disease, disability, and premature death. There are several specialties within preventative medicine, including:
- Addiction medicine (substance abuse)
- Aerospace medicine
- Clinical informatics (patient care)
- Medical toxicology (chemical exposure)
- Occupational medicine (workplace and daily activities)
- Public health and general preventive medicine
- Undersea and hyperbaric medicine (diving, gas poisonings, etc.)
Preventive medicine physicians work in a variety of clinical and non-clinical settings. These include hospitals and other medical settings, as well as government agencies, lab facilities, and academic institutions.
Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty that uses molecular tracers for diagnosis and therapy. There are no subspecialties of nuclear medicine recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialities, but nuclear medicine physicians are similar to radiologists. Instead of using imaging techniques to diagnose conditions like cancer, they use radioactive material to diagnose and treat disease. They do, however, use some imaging techniques like x-rays.
Because nuclear medicine procedures are noninvasive, many nuclear radiologists work in outpatient settings dedicated to nuclear medicine. Others also work in hospitals and laboratories.
Internal medicine is concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of conditions affecting the internal organs. A general internist is able to treat various organs, but internists can specialize in any of the following areas:
- Cardiology (heart and cardiovascular system)
- Endocrinology (glandular system)
- Gastroenterology (digestive system)
- Hematology (blood and bone disorders)
- Infectious disease
- Nephrology (kidneys)
- Oncology (cancerous and non-cancerous tumors)
- Pulmonology (lungs and respiratory system)
- Rheumatology (musculoskeletal system)
Most internists are employed in hospital settings (particularly if they’re general internists), but they can also find employment in labs, academic settings, and clinics dedicated to a subspecialty. They can also find work in multispecialty clinics, such as an endocrinology/nephrology/cardiology practice.
Family medicine provides basic care for individuals of all ages, including children. It’s often referred to as front-line healthcare, as many people use a family medicine physician as their primary care provider (PCP). Family medicine physicians can also specialize in a certain area of medicine or with a certain age group:
- Adolescent medicine (those aged 11-17)
- Geriatric medicine (those over the age of 64)
- Hospice and palliative medicine (end of life care)
- Pain medicine
- Sleep medicine (sleep disorders and disturbances)
- Sports medicine
Most family medicine physicians can find work in family medicine practices, but they can also be found working in hospitals. The specialty they choose will also dictate where they work, such as a sleep lab when specializing in sleep medicine.
Emergency medicine is the specialty of medicine that is concerned with immediate decision-making to prevent further injury, illness, or death. There are also subspecialties within emergency medicine:
- Anesthesiology and critical care medicine
- Emergency medical services (EMS)
- Hospice and palliative medicine
- Medical toxicology
- Neurocritical care
- Pain medicine
- Pediatric emergency medicine
- Sports medicine
- Undersea and hyperbaric medicine
Most emergency medicine physicians work in prehospital (ambulances, homes, etc.) and hospital (emergency rooms, intensive care, critical care) settings, but others find employment in urgent care centers. Urgent care centers aren’t emergency settings, but these skills can be helpful in this setting.
There are many other specialties of medicine that don’t include the word “medicine”, such as dentistry, dermatology, urology, surgery, radiology, psychiatry, anesthesiology, medical genetics, obstetrics and gynecology, ophthalmology, and pathology. These physicians also tend to work in clinical, laboratory, or academic settings.
Physicians in each specialty of medicine also have physician assistants (PAs) working alongside them. PAs can work in any specialty, and they can also switch specialties easier than physicians. This opens them up to many more job opportunities.