Clinical Infectious Disease Specialist

Public health departments consider a number of factors that influence the health and safety of the community.  Because the scope of these departments is so wide on a local, state, and federal level, job opportunities and job stability is quite high.  For people who are interested in careers that can help society while also offering the chance for advancement and increased earnings, a job in the public healthcare sector could offer just such a chance.

Preventing the spread of disease is large focus of public health organizations and an aim of healthcare in general.  By not only understanding how illnesses spread within a community, but also how severely different people are affected by the same illness, you can begin to create better strategies for education, treatment, and prevention.  If you are interested in a clinically based career that helps community wellness, then the position of clinical infectious disease specialist could be for you.

What Is A Clinical Infectious Disease Specialist?

The title of clinical infectious disease specialist refers to any physician who works in a clinical care facility and possesses a certification of knowledge regarding the treatment, spread, containment, and outcomes for patients who are suffering from an infectious disease.  This specialization addresses more current concerns in healthcare, such as drug resistant strains of bacteria, mutated forms of viruses, and even the natural resistance of individuals within a community when there is an outbreak of a disease. 

Along with knowledge about identification and treatment, clinical infectious disease specialists will also conduct research on new strains of illness, and keep track of community statistics regarding spread and the effectiveness of treatment interventions.  This can include participating in public education through the clinical setting, but may also include observing and inspecting facilities that are struggling with disease outbreaks in order to assess the standards of current protocols.  As a clinical infectious disease specialist you would be called upon to both diagnose and treat patients, as well as consult with other professional about better strategies to reduce risk.

The position of clinical infectious disease specialist may include a combination or all of the following tasks:

  •   Reviewing patient information of referrals from other medical professionals.
  •   Running diagnostic tests on patients with unidentified or drug resistant infections.
  •   Analyzing test results to create a viable treatment plan for patients.
  •   Consulting with other medical professional about difficult infection cases.
  •   Providing treatment regimens that are tailored to specific patient and population needs.
  •   Observing protocols in other healthcare facilities to identify possible contagion hazards.
  •   Reviewing population studies on infection spread and providing education to reduce risks.
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Much of the job of the clinical infectious disease specialist does take place through patient and public interactions, but a certain amount of outreach contribution is also necessary.  The following skills will aid you in your job:

  •   Professionalism:  You will be working in a clinical, lab, and research setting, so it is important that you adhere to codes of ethics and professionalism in all interactions with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds.  .
  •   Organization:  You will need to be able to keep track of infection trends in patients, and be in charge of records from multiple other physicians.  Your own research and findings will also need to be catalogued in databases for further scrutiny. 
  •   Collaboration:  In some settings you will be working closely with other researchers and professionals from around the country.  You will also need to operate in concert with other area physicians when considering patients who are referred to you for treatment or study. 
  •   Communication:  Written and verbal communication skills are a necessity for this position.  This will include speaking with other professionals as well as talking with your patients about potential outcomes and courses of action. 
  •   Detail oriented approaches:  Much of the job requires you to critically examine lab results and evidence in determining the nature and vectors of the infectious agents.  You will also need to use this information to find treatment plans that aid the public.

Nature Of The Work

This career path is a specialized physician’s position so you could work out of any public health facility that meets the public’s clinical needs. This can include urgent care and public hospitals as well as university hospitals, and will put you in direct contact with the public.  Many of your interactions will include conducting diagnostic testing on individuals, and providing treatment plans for them based on the findings you have uncovers.

As a public health career, a clinical infectious disease specialist will also provide service to the general community by way of education, as well as through vaccination drives.  You may spend a lot of time reviewing demographic data in cases of larger scale infection outbreaks and assist in identifying possible vectors and interventions.  Although you are mainly working in treatment rooms and lab settings, you will also find that you need to put in research time when identifying new strains of infection.

Education And Training

This specialty requires a four year degree and as well as four years of medical school and three years of training as an internist.  You will need to be licensed to practice as a physician in the state in which you are working, and also stay current with continuing education requirements.  Further, the position of clinical infectious disease specialist requires that you also receive at least three years of training specifically in infectious diseases and pass the AMA certification for becoming a specialist.

As many drug resistant infections are becoming more prevalent, the demand for clinical infectious disease specialists is steadily growing.  The projected increase in jobs in this area is estimated at about 12% over the next ten years.  For such a specific area of public health, that is considered an above average increase, and with the educational requirements, there is concern that not enough applicants will be available in the coming years. 

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Since this is such a specialized field, job stability and advancement are very strong for this career choice.  The annual salary is also one of the higher one in public health services, nationally averaging at nearly $200,000 per year.  If you are already pursuing a career in medicine and would like to explore a specialty that allows you to offer public services and research, then the job of clinical infectious disease specialist could offer you financial and employment security.  

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