Surgeon jobs and Careers
Within the health and medical sector surgeon jobs have to be one of the most exciting and demanding career options available, if you are suited to it. The job of a surgeon has an air of glamour about it, but it requires a lot of hard work and dedication.
There are quite a number of different options and career directions available, meaning that most individuals who are inclined towards surgery jobs can find a suitable specialisation.
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Specialty Surgery Jobs
In the UK, there are nine recognised specialities within surgery:
- General surgery (includes a wide range of emergency and elective surgery).
- Cardiothoracic surgery (the diagnosis, evaluation and surgical management of diseases of the heart, lungs, oesophagus and chest).
- Neurosurgery (involving the brain, central nervous system and spinal cord).
- Trauma and orthopaedic surgery (dealing with injuries, congenital and acquired disorders of the bones, joints and their associated soft tissues, including ligaments, nerves and muscles).
- Paediatric surgery (treating babies and children from the foetal period to their teenage years).
- Oral and maxillofacial surgery (complex major head and neck surgery, involving the mouth, jaws, face and neck).
- Otolaryngology (ear, nose and throat surgery involving the head and neck region, skull base and facial plastic surgery, crossing over with other specialities).
- Plastic surgery (reconstructive surgery on all parts of the body).
- Urology (concerned with diseases, trauma and malformations of the urogenital system).
Each of these areas also has a wide range of sub-specialties.
Despite the extensive range of surgical areas, surgery is one of the most competitive fields in medicine. To achieve success in a chosen area requires extremely hard work and determination. Career planning starts in medical school and continues in the form of carefully planned professional development courses and study.
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What do Surgeon Jobs Involve?
It goes without saying that most work takes place in a hospital setting, performing operations, undertaking ward rounds, attending outpatient clinics, completing administration and teaching students. Just how much is spent on each activity comes down to the particular job and personal preference. Surgeons always work in teams with other surgeons, nurses, anaesthetists, radiologists, pathologists, doctors, administrators, etc., so professional success - which depends on success with patient care - also relates to effective teamwork.
Most surgeons complete teaching duties, research and administrative management, in addition to their clinical duties. There is variety between the specialities and the associated activities, working conditions and structure of working hours. All of these things determine which area of sub-specialisation a surgeon might enter, already having a comprehensive grounding in a specialist field.
Some activities are typical of the work of all surgeons. These include the following:
- Radiology meetings - discussing patient x-rays with radiologists to decide upon treatment.
- Ward rounds - seeing new patients, checking existing patients and reviewing treatment plans, teaching junior medical staff.
- Outpatient clinics - seeing new and follow-up patients, assessing patients for surgery, discussing treatment options, reviewing progress.
- Patient administration - completing notes, reviewing test results, assessing referrals, preparing for clinics and surgery.
- Journals - discussing recent research with other surgeons to raise knowledge on new approaches.
- Surgery - operating on emergency admission or elective list patients.
- Governance - discussing standards and safety issues.
- Pre-operative checks - visiting patients awaiting surgery.
- Tutorials - teaching trainee medical staff.
- External duties - various tasks for benefit of the profession, such as reviewing research papers, teaching on non-speciality courses, etc.
- Being on-call - being available during the weekend for emergency calls.
Is a Surgeon Job Right for You?
Hours and Conditions
Specialties and sub-specialties vary so much that it is impossible to establish a fixed number of hours. However, it is reasonable to expect a standard week of at least 45 hours, which can increase dramatically during weeks when the surgeon is on-call. Surgeons who also undertake surgery for the private healthcare sector do so in their free time, outside these hours.
Type of Person Required
Some of the personal attributes of good surgeons coincide with those required of many people working in healthcare. Given the additional skills required and demands made by the job, there are - unsurprisingly - some additional, harder to come by, attributes also needed.
- You must genuinely care about and want to help people.
- An existing interest in medicine, anatomy and physiology, with the ability to perform well in scientific subjects.
- Superb hand-eye co-ordination is, for obvious reasons, vital.
- Your communication skills must be outstanding.
- Personal integrity is important; as people need to, quite literally, trust you with their health.
- Team skills are vital and particularly leadership qualities.
- This profession, as much as any in the health services, requires the ability to think clearly and make fast, critical decisions under pressure.
- You need to be able to work to consistently high standards, whatever is happening elsewhere in your life.
- An enquiring mind and interest in researching and staying abreast of developments in your field is essential.
- The motivation and interest in communicating with and training other people is important.
- Management and administration skills for the organisation of resources, time and people.
- Negotiating and influencing skills are involved in establishing treatment plans and procuring resources.
- An understanding of the machinations of complex organisations will help within the health service.
Qualifications Required for Surgeon Jobs
Surgeons need to first complete a five-year degree in medicine that is recognised by the General Medical Council. Medical schools vary, with some being more oriented towards surgery than others, so it is important to research schools carefully. Entry requirements usually include A-levels in science subjects and maths, with high grades (i.e. A-A-B). This is followed by a two-year foundation programme of general and higher surgical training. For those without the science subjects, six year degree courses may be available, featuring a one-year foundation course.
Graduates with a non-medical honours degree in a science subject can apply to a four-year graduate entry programme.
After gaining the qualification of MB or BM (Bachelor of Medicine), BChir, ChB or BS (Bachelor of Surgery), doctors then spend one year as a resident Preregistration House Officer (PRHO). This is completed under supervision of a surgeon and upon successful completion they register with the General Medical Council.
They will then apply for a short-term role as a Senior House Officer (SHO), usually in the Accident and Emergency department, before applying for a SHO in Basic Surgical Training, lasting up to three years, during which they rotate in different specialities and complete an MRCS (Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons) course in basic surgery. Subsequent training stages are Higher Surgical Training and, ultimately, the Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training.
Thus qualified, some surgeons go on to later pursue further degrees and diplomas in research or in their sub-specialty.
Salaries and Prospects for Surgery Jobs
Compensation for surgeons can be generous and reflects the extensive training required. Annual income for a Preregistration House Officer can be between £21,000 and £26,000. Upon entering specialist training, this can rise to £44,000. Qualified consultants can earn £70,000-£94,000 a year.
During training, doctors can earn additional income according to hours worked, workload and unsocial hours. Many consultants supplement their income by working in private hospitals as well. Additional benefits can lift the consultant's annual income to over £150,000.
Promotional opportunities can be scarce within certain sub-specialties and relocation may be necessary in order to further your career, particularly for more senior positions.
Surgeon Jobs Sites
The British Medical Journal's Career Site has an extensive list of medical vacancies including Consultant Surgeons:
Surgeon Jobs in the US:
This medical employment agency offers worldwide vacancies for Surgeons: