How to Become a Psychiatrist
It's not easy to become a real-life Dr. Frasier Crane. At a minimum, you have to complete four years of college, then four years of medical school and, finally, four years of psychiatry residence training. After all that hard work, you'll have to put up with being called a "shrink."
STEP 1: Take lots of science courses in high school to best prepare yourself for a college premedical program. Include physics, chemistry and biology.
STEP 2: Visit the Medical Schools Web page (aamc.org/medicalschools.htm) for a list of U.S. and Canadian medical schools. Contact your top choices about the college premedical courses that you'll need for admission.
STEP 3: Peruse the Princeton Review Web site (review.com) for a listing of colleges and their programs. Send for catalogs and applications. Be certain that the colleges to which you apply offer all the prerequisite premedical courses.
STEP 4: Maintain a high grade point average, especially in your science courses. The competition for medical school is intense.
STEP 5: Take the Medical Admission Test (MCAT) at the end of your junior year in college. Ask your adviser how to best handle the paperwork involved in medical school applications.
STEP 6: Complete four years of medical school, pass your medical boards, and you will have your Medical Doctor (M.D.) degree and, most likely, an enormous loan to repay.
STEP 7: Begin your four-year residency in psychiatry, which is actually on-the-job training for which you will receive a salary. Depending on the state in which you work as a resident, you will take your medical licensing examination sometime during this period.
STEP 8: Consider continuing your training to receiving board certification in a subspecialty such as forensic psychiatry, child psychiatry or geriatric psychiatry.
What is forensic psychiatry? “
Forensics” means refers to the application of science for the purposes of the law. Many people think of forensic pathologists and presume that forensics implies “dead.” There actually are forensic braches of all of the sciences (www.AAFS.org). Forensic pathologists are often medical examiners and deal with pathology and the law. Forensic engineers deal with legal issues in the field of engineering (e.g.: bridges falling down or accident reconstruction.) Forensic psychiatry deals with application and interpretation of psychiatric knowledge, principles and science to the law for the purposes of the law.
Forensic psychiatry embraces four major branches of law:
1) Civil law, including torts, malpractice, psychic stress litigation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), suicide, testamentary capacity, effects and side effects of medications, Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) product liability, right to treatment and right to refuse treatment;
2) Criminal law, including competency to stand trial (CST), criminal defense issues including the insanity defense (CR/NGRI), Guilty but Mentally Ill (GBMI), competency to be sentenced, competency to be executed as well as treatment of people awaiting trial, awaiting restoration of competency and those found not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI);
3) Family/Domestic law, including children in need of supervision (CHINS), persons in need of supervision (PINS), divorce, custody, and any other matter in front of Family Court, and;
4) Regulatory law, including standards of care and treatment, Constitutional Rights of hospitalized or imprisoned people, oversight of hospitals, extended care facilities, nursing homes, prisons and correctional institutions, Medicare, HCFA, OBRA regulations and others.
The forensic psychiatrist may work for either side (plaintiff/defense, prosecutor/defense, either side in family court, a governmental regulatory body, attorney, agency) in any legal matter and most forensic psychiatrists try to work for both sides to avoid being labeled as biased. This is consistent with the ethical principles articulated by the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law www.AAPL.org.
How do you become a forensic psychiatrist?
Thanks to TV shows such as CSI and Law & Order, everyone wants to work in forensics. TV has made our field seem glamorous and exciting. Becoming a forensic psychiatrist takes a lot of work and time. First you attend four years of college, usually with a pre-med/science curriculum/major, although that is not specifically necessary for entrance into medical school. Medical school is four years long. At the end of medical school, a person is a “doctor.” However, you need to complete at least an additional year (often referred to as an internship) in order to practice medicine. You also must pass the State licensing examination and the three parts of the National Medical Board Examinations (www.ABMS.org).
Most medical students decide to specialize. That means an additional 2-7 years of residency training. It is during this time, that the young doctor focuses solely on his/her area of interest. In psychiatry, the internship and residency are usually combined into a four-year program. At the end of residency, a doctor is now a psychiatrist.
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat people with mental disorders. Psychiatrists specialize in the brain and the mind with an emphasis on emotions, thinking, cognition, behavior and the physical/somatic manifestations of psychiatric, emotional and stress based illnesses. There is increasing research and interest in the biological basis for behavior and thinking as well as in the development and use of medications to help people with psychiatric problems.
After residency, comes super-specialty training, also known as fellowship training. Each branch of medicine has fellowship areas. In psychiatry there is: forensics, consultation-liaison, neuropsychiatry, geriatric psychiatry, neurophysiology, child and adolescent psychiatry. Psychiatric fellowship training adds an additional 1-2 years of education. After fellowship, a doctor may apply for and be granted permission top sit for specialty Board Certification in a specific area. Passing the Boards is important in the credentialing process for a forensic psychiatrist and assures a minimum level of knowledge of the material. In psychiatry, doctors must take their board exams every 10 years, to show that they have maintained a knowledge base.
In order to be a good forensic expert, you must first be a good clinician. Clinical work is the backbone of what a psychiatrist does, and it is hard to imagine being an expert in something in which you are not regularly engaged. Also, all branches of medicine require ongoing continual medical education (CME) training on a yearly basis. This is necessary in order to stay current in the field and in order to maintain a State’s license to practice medicine. In other words, the commitment to learning and education, including testing is life-long, as the Board exams must be re-taken every 10 years.
Answered By: MsKnowItAll - 11/2/2006