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Career Advice

How to become a surgeon

surgeonThey are the rock stars of the medical world – brave souls who, armed with a scalpel, delve into the murky depths of the human body to tackle all manner of ailments. It is a challenging but highly rewarding career that offers excellent potential for continuous development and great job security. The path to becoming a surgeon is far from smooth and that’s why we have sliced through the jargon to bring you the information you will need to plan and visualise the journey which lies ahead.

Surgeons and their specialities

First off, let’s dissect what a surgeon actually is and the various types that there are.

A surgeon is a physician who treats a wide range of diseases, injuries and deformities through surgical procedures. Surgeons can carry out all manner of surgical activities from enormously invasive and lengthy operations to brief and routine treatments. Some of the specific specialisms which fall within the category of surgeon are:

  • Cardiothoracic surgeon- heart, lungs, oesophagus and chest

  • Neurosurgeon- brain, central nervous system and spinal cord

  • Oral and maxillofacial- facial bones, face and neck

  • Otolaryngology- ear nose and throat

  • Paediatric surgeon- patients within childhood

  • Plastic surgeon- reconstructive and elective cosmetic surgery

  • Trauma and orthopaedic- bones and joints

  • Urology- Urinary system as well as mens sexual and reproductive health.

Skills and attributes

There are of course a huge range of technical skills and clinical experience which must be gained before you will become a fully qualified surgeon. If you are in the process of considering whether or not you are suited to a career as a surgeon, some of the transferable skills required are:

  • Ability to work in a calm and efficient manner in often high pressure environments

  • Ability to make decisions and quickly adapt to fast moving situations

  • Outstanding powers of observation to ensure that any slight changes in a patient’s condition can be identified and acted upon

  • Problem solving and the ability to plan for a number of different contingencies

  • A high level of professional integrity

  • The desire and willingness to constantly learn and develop throughout your career

  • A deep interest in human anatomy and the desire to dedicate your working life to care of your patients.

Qualifications and Training

nursesAs mentioned above the route to becoming a surgeon is long, academically intensive and enormously competitive. The trajectory of an individual’s training may vary slightly, but the most general route that is taken by most surgeons is as follows:

  1. Gaining outstanding A-Level results – Of all university areas of study, medicine is the one that has the most consistently high entry requirements. Generally the lowest grades which will ever be requested are AAB to include (usually) chemistry along with at least one other science subject or maths.  Most entrants will also be subject to a UKCAT (UK Clinical Aptitude Test) or BMAT (BioMedical Admissions Test) to further confirm their aptitude and suitability for a career in medicine.

  2. Completion of medical school- This is will take 5-6 years and will provide you with the basic knowledge required for all medical specialities.

  3. Foundation training- this is a paid position within a hospital or other medical environment.  It lasts 2 years and covers a wide range of medical areas including surgery.

  4. Core surgical training- Again this is a paid position within a medical environment.  It lasts two years and and provides competencies in a range of surgical specialities and may be geared towards one area in particular.

  5. Speciality training- This will be the longest of your `on the job` training and usually lasts 6 years. It is a paid position which will see you specialise in your chosen surgical area in readiness for being employed in a senior position e.g. consultant.

In all, the route from medical student to consultant will take an absolute minimum of 16 years (though in reality it is usually longer than this) and so is not a career which is to be undertaken lightly- it is no exaggeration to say that it requires a huge amount of blood, sweat and tears.

If you still fancy becoming a surgeon good luck, we hope you have found this brief guide useful.  If the thought of all that blood is too much for you, then why not check out some of the other jobs featured in our career directory?

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