The Scoop on Surgeons

We all watch doctor shows and the Surgeon is always the one in charge, the one with the most problems to solve, the one running the hospital, (and the one with most responsibility.)

This isn't too far from the truth. Surgeons, of all types, work in high pressure environments where they are, many times, performing life-saving operations on patients. 10.8% of Doctors in 2005 were surgeons and with advances in medical and the "baby boomers" retiring the need to for more surgeons is going to grow.

What in the World Does a Surgeon Do?

It's not as simple as "The surgeon is the person who cuts you open and does some cool operation all while picking up the latest hot nurse/other doctor in the operating room." Any Surgeon has a lot to deal with: taking referrals from other Doctors, reading through a patient's medical history, reading through another doctor's notes, doing some of the same tests another doctor already did, counseling patients on their options, prepping a patient for surgery, performing the surgery, and caring for the patient after the surgery.

Surgeons typically do their work when a patient is "under" (knocked out, you get the idea) and they use a variety of instruments to do what needs to be done. Depending on the Surgical Specialty you work in the types on instruments and training will vary, but the intensity of the job does not.

Surgeons are usually called on at the last minute and must be able to perform under stress and have a steady hand. I you do not do well under pressure this may not be the place for you. The rewards are great, but the risks are high.

What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)

Learning to become a surgeon starts out looking like any other Doctor. You would need to complete a Bachelor's Degree in some sort of science (Biology, Chemistry, you get the idea) before you applied to Medical School. There are 146 Medical Schools in the U.S. and competition to get into these schools is very tough. Once you are accepted you will train for 4 years and either become a M.D. (Medical Doctor) or a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.) Once your schooling is complete you'll need to get your license to practice medicine from the State Medical Board. This usually means you have to take a written exam and pass a "skills" test before you get your license. (Once you get your license you need continuing education to renew it.)

After you have finished Medical School you would choose your specialty (Surgery) and then you would embark on a 3-7 internship or apprenticeship in your specialty.

How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?

Most Doctors might start off doing an internship in a Hospital is they wanted to become a surgeon (I know, just like the T.V.) where they will be able to chose a Surgical Specialty (Neurosurgery, Cardiovascular Surgery, Plastic Surgery, etc.) You would train during your apprenticeship in this surgical specialty and after you are done you would then have to get your license from the State Medical Board in your surgical specialty. Afterwards you can work as a full-blooded surgeon.

Most Surgeons work in Hospitals because those are the best places to care for patients who need surgeries, but occasionally surgeons can work for themselves and do surgeries at multiple hospitals. You may also want to do Plastic Surgery and, many times, those surgeries could be done through your private practice at your own office (just like the T.V. again.) If a private practice or a hospital doesn't suit you, you could work for a Governmental agency or do work with Health Clinics or with disadvantaged people. Either way, the "O.R." doesn't have to be your life, if you don't want it to be.

Advancing in the field usually means you become a Director of Surgery or "Chief of Surgery" (again just like the T.V.) You may find advancement in doing surgical research or in teaching surgery at a teaching hospital or Medical School. These opportunities tend to suit older Doctors better who have older children or who are considering retirement.

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Surgeons Overview

Surgeon Salary:$271,771
Job Prospects:A-
Education after high school:10 years
# Employed in US:47,070
% Who work Part Time:8%
Physical Difficulty:+ + +
Intellectual Difficulty:+ + +
Emotional Difficulty:+ + + +

The Pros of being a Surgeon

  • You can help people who might have you as their last resort
  • You get to work with lots of other doctors and medical professionals
  • You can do a lot of work for disadvantaged people on a "pro bono" basis

The Cons of being a Surgeon

  • The training takes 8 years after high school
  • Add to that a 3-7 year internship
  • You work in a high pressure environment
  • It may be hard to deal with people who are suffering, in pain, or terminally ill