Becoming a surgeon: which field of surgery is right for me?

December 5, 2016

Surgery is a very interesting branch of medicine, within which there are many different specialties to consider. A particular interest in pediatrics or oncology might make your decision easier, but what if you’re unsure which field of surgery is right for you? If you are thinking of becoming a surgeon, here are some important questions to ask before you commit.

What types of surgery exist?

Of course, the first thing you should probably do is make sure you know all of the types of surgery available to specialise in. Here are a few examples:

  • Thoracic surgery (to do with the chest)
  • Obstetrics and gynecology (to do with pregnancy, fertility and female reproductive organs)
  • Neurological surgery (to do with the nervous system)
  • Orthopedic surgery (to do with the bones, joints and muscles)
  • Plastic surgery (to do with reconstruction or improving the aesthetics of the body)

You may also consider specialising in a particular age group (i.e. working in pediatrics) or working in response to a particular event or illness (such as oncology or trauma surgery). Having a decent knowledge of all your options is an important step in making the right choice.

What branches of medicine did you particularly enjoy?

Another good way to decide what field of surgery you would suit is to look back to your medical degree. You clearly enjoyed your surgery modules the most, but what else did you find interesting? If you enjoyed experiencing the fast-paced life of the emergency room, trauma surgery could be a great fit. If you found obstetrics and gynecology fascinating, you may love working with mothers and babies.

How specialized would you like to become?

Another very important consideration is how specialized you would ultimately like to be. While all physicians can expect to learn throughout their whole career, some branches of medicine require more advanced training than others. Orthopedic surgeons, for example, have the option to specialise further into sports surgery or spinal surgery. Meanwhile, pediatric surgeons may like to work in neonatal surgery, or pediatric oncology. Other physicians work in ‘general surgery’ for much of their career – the choice is yours.

If you’re having trouble deciding exactly what’s right for you, it may be wise to complete some shadowing in one or more surgical departments. That way, you’ll get a very clear idea of what your future role would entail.