Medical Specialties: Psychiatry Essay

In today’s medical practice, a primary care physician often relies on a network of specialists to help provide a patient with the best possible health care. Through additional education and training, physicians can specialize in any number of fields including immunology, dermatology, emergency medicine, hematology, oncology, neonatology, nephrology and psychiatry. Immunologists treat diseases of the immune system and the respiratory complications that accompany those diseases, including asthma, AIDS, or transplant rejection.

Dermatologists study and treat melanoma, acne, sun damage, cosmetic issues and other conditions affecting the skin, hair, or nails. Emergency medicine is the medical specialty treating acute medical conditions that require immediate care. These conditions, including heart attacks, broken bones, and strokes often require in-hospital treatment in emergency rooms. Because of the severity and diversity of the injuries and illnesses that present to an emergency room require an emergency room doctor to interact with physicians in many different specialties, as well as being well versed in multiple areas of medicine themselves.

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Hematology is the treatment of blood disorders, such as anemia, blood clots, and bone marrow failures. Oncologists specialize in treating cancers. Often these two specialties intertwine, because certain types of cancer, like leukemia, affect the blood or blood forming organs. Newborn babies, especially those born premature or ill, receive hospital-based care from neonatologists. A neonatologist would also be responsible for treating infants born with fetal alcohol syndrome or infant chemical dependency. Patients who are suffering kidney failure, infections, or cysts may be referred to a nephrologist for treatment.

Finally, psychiatry is the study and treatment of the addictive or personality disorders that affect the behavior and mental health of a patient. Psychiatrists are medical physicians who are fully licensed and able to prescribe medication, give physicals, and order additional testing. They complete undergraduate work and attend medical school. After medical school, they spend 3-4 years in a residency program where they are trained in emergency and crisis evaluation, inpatient management, outpatient care and follow up and management of medication.

Psychiatrists can also choose to continue their education and subspecialize in any number of fields within the specialty after their residency. They can complete a residency in geriatric, child and adolescent, research, or forensic psychiatry lasting one to three years. Anna Prescott, a registered nurse working at Oswego Hospital, Behavioral Services Center, says the diverse and complicated conditions a psychiatrist treats ranges from addiction to a variety of conditions on the depression spectrum (A. Prescott, personal communication, February 7, 2011).

Depression is the most common complaint from patients at the Behavioral Services Center, and those conditions range from Bipolar, to clinical depression, to seasonal affective disorder. They have also treated people suffering from schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, and eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. Because of the nature of mental illness, psychiatrists often work with many other professionals. According to Ms. Prescott, “psychiatrist need to maintain a cooperative and professional relationship with primary care doctors, emergency medical personnel, licensed clinical social workers and dietitians to ensure the best possible care for their patients. ” She says approximately half the patients being treated at the Oswego Health Center were referred to them by emergency room doctors due to a crisis in the patient’s mental or physical health, including overdose attempts, intentional or accidental.

Patients who are struggling with chemical dependencies or eating disorders often work with clinical social workers and dieticians in the course of their treatment. In all cases, Ms. Prescott insists it is vitally important to rule out physical maladies, like tumors, that would impact the emotional health of a patient; therefore, it is essential for psychiatrists to order blood work, MRIs, CT scans, or any other tests that would assist them in determining the presence of any other illness.

Psychiatrists use prescription medications, including Zoloft, Xanax, and Trifalon, in addition to talk therapy, to treat depressive issues and personality disorders. In some cases, patients are able to supplement the treatment of their conditions with alternative therapies. Essential oils and herbs like St. John’s Wort have been used effectively against some forms of mild depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder. Vitamin and nutrition changes have shown promising results when used in combination with prescription medications and traditional therapy to treat depression and eating disorders.

Psychiatrists who specialize in pediatric psychiatry will often engage in “play therapy” with their patients. They use puzzles, art supplies, books, dolls, and journals. Most of the medical reports from Behavioral Services Center are history and physical examination reports and discharge summaries, Ms. Prescott says. However, she also says that a transcriptionist can also expect to work on medical correspondence and HPIP reports. Psychiatry provides a unique opportunity to treat people suffering with behavioral, addictive, or personality disorders.

It requires physicians to have the ability to work with many other professionals, and to use a variety of medicinal and holistic forms of treatment, including medication, nutrition, and talk therapy. The diverse and complicated conditions treated by psychiatrists make it an exciting and dynamic medical specialty.


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