How To Become An Allergist (With Step-By-Step Guide)
Updated 7 June 2023
Pursuing a healthcare career involves obtaining specific educational qualifications, certifications, licences and skills. One such career is as an allergist, who specialises in treating and preventing different types of allergies. Learning about this job can help you decide if this career suits you. In this article, we explain what an allergist is, review how to become an allergist, outline their typical responsibilities and key skills and review their work environment.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.
What Is An Allergist?
An allergist, or an immunologist, is a doctor who studies, diagnoses and treats allergic diseases, asthma and immunological conditions in patients. They study and analyse how the human body responds to allergens. Many allergists specialise in treating autoimmune diseases and inherited immunodeficiency conditions. To treat patients, they first determine the cause of their reactions and conduct a series of pathological tests to discover specific allergies and their severity. Some conditions allergists treat include:
Eczema: Patients with different skin conditions and eczema consult allergists for treatment and maintenance. Allergists examine their rashes to determine the treatment course.
Allergic reactions: Allergic reactions come in several forms, some of which can be life-threatening. Allergists may specialise in treating different allergies to save a patient's life.
Hay fever: Hay fever is a common allergic reaction that arises when seasonal changes occur and cause allergens to enter the environment.
Asthma: Asthma is a breathing condition, which different allergies can exacerbate. Allergists diagnose and treat asthma in patients.
Hives: Hives are a sign of an allergic reaction, and allergists try to identify allergens causing hives.
How To Become An Allergist?
Follow these steps to learn how to become an allergist:
1. Complete a medical degree
The first step towards becoming an allergist is completing your medical degree. Ensure you pursue physics, biology and chemistry in your 10+2. After completing your higher secondary, enrol in a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course from a university that the Medical Council of India (MCI) recognises. Complete the relevant medical entrance exams to gain admission to an MBBS course. This course typically takes a minimum of five years and six months.
2. Enrol in a residency programme
While earning your MBBS degree, focus on completing a mandatory residency programme or internship, typically lasting at least a year. During your residency programme, you work under the direct supervision of senior doctors and with patients who require different treatment types. Some medical colleges have hospital wings where you can complete your internship. For other colleges, you may complete the internship at an external hospital.
3. Pass the postgraduate National Eligibility cum Entrance Test
The National Board of Examinations conducts the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test. Passing this exam helps you gain admission to postgraduate courses such as Doctor of Medicine (MD). Ensure you pursue your MD in allergy and immunology from a reputed medical institute that the MCI recognises.
4. Join the Indian Medical Register
After completing your MD degree, register with any state medical council in the country. This allows you to join the Indian Medical Register. After receiving your registration number, you can practise as an allergist in government and private hospitals and clinics.
5. Practise as a doctor
Once you have completed your master's degree and enrolled with the Indian Medical Register, you can start practising as an allergist. Consider completing your PhD degree to gain more knowledge of the profession. When practising as an allergist, you have the option to work as an employee doctor in a specific healthcare institution. The second option is to practise independently in a clinic or under an experienced allergist or immunologist.
What Does An Allergist Do?
Typical allergist duties include:
Treating immunological disorders and allergic diseases in patients
Evaluating allergies in patients with appropriate treatments
Finding the cause of allergic reactions and irritants that trigger immune responses in the body
Initiating allergist duties to develop and design immunisation programmes
Ordering laboratory tests of patients
Completing and filing medical paperwork
Adhering to medical ethics codes and paperwork
Providing primary care to patients suffering from common allergic reactions
Conducting laboratory or clinical research on allergy or immunology topics
Performing physical examinations of patients
Performing diagnostic tests, such as skin pricks and delayed hypersensitivity tests
Documenting patient's medical histories
Assessing the risks and benefits of therapies for immunologic disorders and allergies
Here are some allergist skills you can consider developing:
Allergists use their in-depth medical knowledge to help them understand how the body functions. Allergists understand how allergens affect the body and what treatments to use to reduce the reactions they cause in patients. Patients expect allergists to identify allergy-causing substances and provide medications to reduce symptoms and ensure relief.
Attention to detail
Allergists use their strong attention to detail to improve their research and clinical skills. When assessing a patient's condition, closely monitoring the symptoms they experience can help with treatment. Noticing vital signs helps allergists provide accurate diagnoses, which means patients receive the correct treatment, improving their overall health.
An allergist's work environment changes regularly, and employers expect them to adapt to such new circumstances. For instance, if patients experience new symptoms in the initial screening, allergists may adjust their treatment plan to acknowledge the change in circumstances. With adaptability, they can incorporate recent knowledge into their daily habits to ensure workplace productivity.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to empathise with patients and identify their medical requirements. This skill helps allergists explain diagnoses to patients and convey their treatment plans. It helps them consider the patient's perspective and concerns about their allergies. Building a strong relationship with patients helps allergists earn their trust. This is useful because it helps patients feel comfortable sharing their concerns.
Developing practical problem-solving skills helps allergists manage and treat complex and new allergies. Hospitals prefer candidates who can solve problems under tense circumstances while providing health benefits to the patient. Allergists can improve their problem-solving skills during their clinical training or residency programme.
Work Environment Of An Allergist
An allergist may work in a private hospital or set up a clinic offering specialist services for reducing allergies. Some allergists may specialise in clinical research and spend most of their time in laboratories. When working in private clinics and hospitals, these doctors work standard business hours. Depending upon their duties, many work overtime, in different shifts or on weekends. They often provide telephone consultations outside working hours and visit other hospitals and clinics.
Career Opportunities For Allergists
When working as an allergist, focus on one of the following career paths:
Scientific research and analysis projects
The role of allergists has become significant due to the rise in airborne allergies. Allergists who wish to enter the research domain and study specific allergies can work in scientific research and analysis projects. Allergists are likely to find such opportunities in research institutes, government laboratories, universities and pharmaceutical companies.
Private medical practices
Allergists may privately own a clinic to treat patients suffering from allergies, asthma and other related health problems. Senior allergists specialising in specific disorders and diseases may consider opening a clinic. This career path allows allergists to work independently, improving their work–life balance.
Private and government hospitals
Hospitals, medical facilities and nursing homes run by the government and private companies usually employ part-time or full-time allergists, although working hours may be considerably higher. These allergists typically have a stable career path. After gaining some relevant experience, allergists may become the head of the department of hospitals and train entry-level doctors.
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