Endocrinologists are doctors that work specifically with the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormones and disorders associated with them. They’ll work with a range of patients, such as those with diabetes.
Endocrinology is one of the lesser-known medical disciplines. It is an area of healthcare that deals with issues affecting areas such as the pituitary gland, the thyroid and the hormones in the human body.
Endocrinologists (or an endocrine specialist) are predominantly an outpatient speciality. Some have been known to operate in major hospitals or surgeries, however, most tend to work with GPs to offer help and guidance regarding issues such as obesity and diabetes. Famous endocrinologists include Roger Guillemin, Tadeus Reichstein and Maria Vladimirovna Vorontsova, the eldest childr of Vladamir Putin.
What is an endocrinologist?
An endocrinologist is a specialist doctor. They diagnose, research and offer treatments for patients managing conditions associated with the endocrine system (a hormonal system). Their work often crosses over with endocrine diabetes teams, as this is one of the most common forms of endocrine disorder.
Qualifications to become a doctor are completely standardised in the UK. You’ll begin your medical career with a medical degree, at an accredited UK medical school attached to a university.
You’ll usually work in an outpatient capacity supporting people with ongoing conditions from diabetes to polycystic ovary syndrome. You may see some patients on a specialist endocrinology ward.
Your work as an endocrine hormone specialist will vary day to day. This will depend on your level of seniority and the patients you see. There are some common expectations from your role, though:
- Giving detailed investigations of endocrine disorders.
- Receiving NHS endocrinologist referrals from general practitioners.
- Diagnosing endocrine disorders with associated endocrinology tests.
- Giving advice on management of conditions, such as managing diabetes.
- Treating endocrine emergencies, such as diabetic ketosis.
- Managing multidisciplinary meetings across various clinical teams within and outside the endocrinology department.
- Teaching newer doctors on the processes of diagnosis, especially for more complex cases.
- Running outpatient endocrine clinics within an endocrine team.
- Managing a team of endocrine professionals, including nurses, junior doctors and healthcare professionals.
- Keeping detailed patient notes of their endocrine history.
- Keeping up to date with relevant new research and guidance in relation to your discipline.
Salaries for doctors are standardised across the NHS Agenda for Change pay scale. This includes an endocrinologist salary, which is clearly set out. You’ll begin your medical career in foundation training for 2 years after completion of medical school. Your salary will be between £29,384 and £34,012. When you begin your specialist training in endocrinology, expect to receive a salary of around £40,257. Once fully qualified, you can move towards a consultant endocrinologist salary, ranging from £84,559 to £114,003.
Some doctors choose to become a private endocrinologist once they reach consultant endocrinologist level. This could attract higher salaries, or more flexibility.
Qualifications to become a doctor are completely standardised in the UK. You’ll begin your medical career with a medical degree, at an accredited UK medical school attached to a university. This usually takes 5 years, and you’ll need to have 3 A Levels at grades A*- A, including Chemistry and sometimes Biology to apply. If you already have a degree, you could take the Graduate Entry Medicine route, a condensed 4 year course.
Training and development
Training in the NHS is highly regulated and standardised, so there’s a set path that you’ll follow.
On completion of your medical degree, you’ll start your foundation training in an NHS setting. This lasts two years and involves rotations across various different medical departments.
On completion of your medical training, you are eligible to register with the General Medical Council as a fully qualified doctor. You’ll then complete three more years training across settings (internal medicine training), after which you are eligible to apply for a speciality training in endocrinology and diabetes. This branch of training takes four years.
Most medical courses will require you to have spent some time in a medical or patient care setting before your application.
Once fully qualified, you’ll keep up to date with your profession via continuing professional development (CPD). For doctors, this usually sits 250 hours over a 5 year period, or around 50 hours per year. This will be supported through the NHS, but you’ll also be able to register for various societies that offer seminars, webinars and conferences in endocrinology, such as the Society for Endocrinologists.
Your skills as an endocrinologist combine medical expertise with an excellent bedside manner. These include:
- A robust knowledge of endocrine conditions and their treatments.
- Excellent communication skills, as you’ll be working with a variety of medical colleagues across multiple disciplines.
- Excellent team leadership - you likely run outpatient clinics and be responsible for the work of nurses, healthcare practitioners and junior doctors.
- Problem solving skills for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment.
- Strong organisational skills - you’ll manage multiple case loads and need to keep on top of the paperwork associated with them.
- Excellent bedside manner - you’ll need to support patients through chronic conditions sensitively and in a supportive way.
- Ability to handle challenging situations while keeping emotional resilience.
Most medical courses will require you to have spent some time in a medical or patient care setting before your application. If you have any contacts in the medical field, it’s worth reaching out to ask for support in shadowing their work.
Alternatively, you can reach out directly to local medical settings, such as GP surgeries or hospitals. You can ask to shadow specifically in an endocrinology or diabetic unit, though don’t worry if you can’t get into a specific field like this, as placements are in high demand. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to observe direct patient care due to confidentiality, but you may be able to observe some tertiary work by medical practitioners.
An endocrinologist is a specialist doctor. They diagnose, research and offer treatments for patients managing conditions associated with the endocrine system (a hormonal system).
If you struggle to access a placement in a medical setting, another alternative is to access work experience in a care capacity. This could be in a care home for elderly residents, for example. You may even be able to observe on site medical treatments, such as drug administration.
Your career prospects as an endocrinologist are very varied. While the initial aspects of your training are fairly standardised, once you reach consultant level, you have the opportunity to mould your career towards further specialisms that interest you most. You could focus on maternity care, such as supporting pregnant people with gestational diabetes, or becoming a paediatric endocrinologist.
If you particularly enjoy the academic side of your work, you could go into medical teaching at university level. With the right experience and a good record of research publication, you could reach principal lecturer level.