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Surgeon wearing a surgical mask and glasses in operating room

The Characteristics of Good Surgeons

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Medical students interested in careers as surgeons should be familiar with the traits, skills and demands required of the profession. This is not just for students, though. Individuals who anticipate the need for a surgeon are better served if they have an understanding of the rigors of a surgeons training. In part, a good surgeon responds positively to some basic questions about the career choice.

Some questions to ask

When considering the career, or when interviewing someone who may become your surgeon, ask:

  • Do the long hours in surgery seem to pass quickly?
  • Do you appreciate the operating room teamwork during a difficult operation?
  • Do you enjoy watching your patients improve steadily in the days following surgical procedures?
  • Do you feel intrigued by the challenge of managing the multiple physiological and psychological problems in critically ill patients?
  • Do feel a sense of excitement among your surgical team when anticipating a “great case”?

Positive answers to these questions are strong indicators of dedicated professionals, working to be at the top of their field.

Traits and Characteristics

All good surgeons are intelligent, conscientious, creative, courageous, and demonstrate perseverance on behalf of their patients. Being a good surgeon is a life-long process, and must thrive in the surgical disciplines and seek out all opportunities to go to the operating room. Surgeons must also be flexible as the surgeon’s day is rarely predictable. This volatile environment must be seen as an enjoyable challenge.

A good surgeon is also comfortable being the leader of a team, motivating them and exacting their best efforts, while accepting full responsibility for all outcomes. They must also be comfortable with making quick decisions in the absence of complete information, assuming the mantle of leadership, and discussing errors in a public forum.

Surgeons are people who find it extremely rewarding to act and see the impact of their actions on behalf of their patients, and there are other rewards unique to surgery. A good surgeon is able to see immediate results and can measure personal success and accomplishment through the improved life of a patient and the skill of the surgical team.

Most surgeons practice in an urban environment. Those who practice in rural or remote areas, because they will be caring for a broad range of patients who require surgical medicine, complete programs that offer experience in all aspects of surgery.

Education and Training

After receiving a Bachelors degree and completing medical school, a potential surgeon can reasonably expect to complete a five-year residency program. Further specialization may require a longer period. After receiving board certification, surgeons must maintain their license by meeting the continuing medical education requirements where they practice.

This work is not without its rewards. The average starting salary for surgeons is in excess of $200,000 per year. However, financial compensation is only a part. Surgeons are among the most respected members of the medical profession.

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