Exploring a Career in OrthopedicsFebruary 8, 2014
What is Orthopedic Surgery?
Orthopedic surgery is a medical specialty centered on the care and repair of the musculoskeletal system of the human body. The musculoskeletal system is composed of your bones, muscles, connective tissues, joints, ligaments, and tendons, and its purpose is to protect your organs and allow your body to full move and function. As an orthopedic surgeon, you’ll operate on patients with a variety of dysfunctions: injuries, tumors, degenerative diseases, and birth defects. Your operations will allow patients to have an improved quality of life by giving their bodies better movement and function. You can further specialize by patient population or by part of the body: pediatric orthopedics, surgical sports medicine, hand surgery, shoulder surgery and spinal surgery are among the subspecialty choices.
Education and Training
If you want to become an orthopedic surgeon and help people suffering from illness, injury, and disease, you’ll need to follow the traditional educational trajectory of all medical students. You’ll complete an undergraduate degree (either in a science or non-science major) and apply to medical school. Due to the hands-on nature of surgery, you may want to experiment with some fine art coursework during your undergraduate studies to hone your fine motor skills. You’ll attend four years of medical school and then complete your residency. Orthopedic residencies run up to five years due to the specialized, sensitive, and high-risk nature of this specialty. After your residency, you will spend an additional two years working in a clinical practice. Then, you will sit for your board exams from the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery. After this long course of schooling, training, and clinical practice, you will be a full board-certified orthopedic surgeon. As your career progresses, you will continue to grow professionally through Continued Medical Education which will allow you to maintain your certification as you learn about advances and developing technologies in orthopedic surgery.
Salaries and Outlook
Orthopedic surgeons are in high demand, especially surgeons who are female or non-white. Only 4% of physicians across America are orthopedic surgeons, so this is a specialty ripe with opportunity and employment security. Orthopedic surgeons earn one of the highest salaries across all medical professions with a median income of $230,000 and most earning upwards of $350,000. You’ll enjoy a comfortable, high-tech work environment in either a clinic or hospital. Because of the specialized nature of your work and the generous salary you’ll earn in return, orthopedic surgeons are often encouraged to volunteer their time and services in developing countries and in low-income communities. Doctors Without Borders is always in need of orthopedic surgeons to assist in its patient care mission.
How do I know if Orthopedics is right for me?
As a surgeon, you’ll be working in high-stress, high-pressure environments. You must remain calm and focused despite the urgency of the situation. You must possess skilled manual dexterity and have a steady hand. You must be prepared to see scary conditions and use your technical skill to repair them. Orthopedic surgery may look glamorous in TV medical dramas, but it is a serious medical specialty that requires your full commitment to perfection. Are you up for the challenge of becoming an orthopedic surgeon? — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.