Pulmonologist Overview

A pulmonologist, or pulmonary disease specialist, is a physician who possesses specialized knowledge and skill in the diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary (lung) conditions and diseases.

Pulmonology is classified as an internal medicine subspecialty. Because of the variety of clinical problems encountered, knowledge of internal medicine and other specialties is required in order to obtain certification.

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Education in Internal Medicine

  • Graduation from an approved medical school
  • Completion of an ACGME (American Council for Graduate Medical Education) accredited internal medicine residency program, which takes a minimum of 3 years
  • A minimum of 2 years of meaningful patient contact and responsibility
  • Of the 2 years, 20 months must be spent in in-patient services, ambulatory settings, and in the services of dermatology or neurology
  • 4 months may be taken outside the above areas, subject to program director approval
  • The level of responsibility for patients must increase with each year of training

Pulmonologist Examination & Certification

After satisfactory completion of graduate education, the physician is allowed to take the Internal Medicine board certification examination. After passing the exam, the physician receives board certification in internal medicine. This is a prerequisite to becoming certified in pulmonology.

Once board certified in internal medicine, the physician must be trained in the subspecialty of pulmonary medicine in order to receive certification in pulmonology.

Education in Pulmonary Medicine

  • A minimum of 2 years of full-time graduate training in pulmonary disease, including instruction in the basic sciences with emphasis on molecular biology, pulmonary physiology, and pulmonary immunology
  • 12 months of the 2 years must be spent in clinical training in diagnosis and management

The physician seeking certification in pulmonary medicine is expected to become knowledgeable about and acquire clinical experience with pulmonary diseases and disorders. Knowledge and competence in performing and interpreting tests and procedures must be acquired. Expertise must be developed in monitoring and supervising special services and facilities – such as critical care or respiratory care units, pulmonary function laboratories, respiratory care techniques and services, and respiratory physical therapy and pulmonary rehabilitation facilities.

Pulmonologist Examination & Certification

After training has been satisfactorily completed, the candidate is allowed to take the board certification examination in pulmonary medicine. After passing the exam, the physician receives board certification in pulmonary medicine.

Education in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine

  • All educational experience and program content required for training in both areas must be included in an accredited program
  • A minimum of 3 years training
  • A minimum of 18 months of the 3 years is spent in clinical training
  • At least 12 months of clinical training must provide training in critical care units
  • At least 6 months of training in critical care units must be devoted to the care of critically ill medical patients
  • At least half a day, each week, for 30 months in pulmonary care training in an ambulatory care setting

In addition to gaining expertise as a pulmonary disease specialist, these physicians are expected to gain broad experience and competence in the treatment and management of critically ill adult patients, which includes tests, procedures, services, and treatments in other areas of medicine, such as cardiology, endocrinology, infectious diseases, and so on. The resident will monitor critical care patients during their hospital stay and after they've left the hospital.

They are required to learn how to organize and manage a critical care unit, and how to work as a member of a multidisciplinary team. They also must acquire knowledge about medications used in critical care. Equally important, an understanding of the ethical, economic, legal, psychosocial, and emotional aspects of critical illness and critical care must be obtained.

Pulmonologist Examination & Certification

After training has been satisfactorily completed in both specialties, the candidate is allowed to take the board certification examinations in pulmonary disease and critical care medicine. After passing these exams, the physician receives board certification in pulmonary and critical care medicine.

Education in Pediatric Pulmonology Medicine

The American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) certificate in General Pediatrics is awarded after all the following requirements have been met:

  • Graduation from an accredited medical school in the United States or Canada or from a foreign medical school recognized by the World Health Organization
  • Completion of 3 years of training in pediatrics in an accredited residency program that involves the care of children and adolescents in both hospital and outpatient settings and that is supervised by highly trained medical specialists
  • Verification of satisfactory completion of residency training and acceptability as a practitioner of pediatrics, including the achievement of clinical competence and the demonstration of professional and ethical behavior
  • Possession of a valid, unrestricted state license to practice medicine
  • Successful completion of a comprehensive 2-day written examination covering all aspects of health care for infants, children, and adolescents

Subspecialists in pediatric pulmonology medicine may earn certification in their field after 3 additional years of training, which includes the following requirements:

  • 50% of clinical training in ambulatory care
  • Minimum of 5 months in-patient pediatrics
  • Minimum of 4 months in emergent and acute illness care
  • 1 month in newborn care
  • 4-6 months in intensive care experience
  • Experience in adolescent medicine must be integrated throughout the 3 years
  • 3 months in pulmonary medicine
  • throughout the 3 years, time must be devoted to continuous care of children

Physicians are expected to develop skills in tests and procedures; to acquire knowledge in the fundamental disciplines of allergy, immunology, and immunopathology; to acquire consultative experience in pulmonary intensive care; to acquire experience in the evaluation of psychosocial aspects of chronic pulmonary disease, and counseling chronically ill patients and their families; and to become familiar with the operation of a pediatric pulmonology facility.

Pediatric Pulmonologist Examination & Certification

Candidates must be evaluated and recommended by someone qualified to judge their work, and they must pass a demanding examination in the subspecialty. The Credentials Committee of the American Board of Pediatrics gathers additional information about the applicant and determines if permission to take the examination should be given. After passing the exam, the physician receives board certification in pediatric pulmonology medicine.

Here's a list of conditions treated by pulmonologists:

  • ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome)
  • Asthma
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic Cough
  • COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease)
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Emphysema
  • Hemoptysis
  • Lung Cancer
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Pleural Effusion
  • Sarcoidosis
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule
  • Tuberculosis
  • Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

    Published: 01 Jun 2000

    Last Modified: 03 Nov 2011