Surgeon Careers

How to become Surgeon

What does a Surgeon do?

Surgeons care for patients who may need an operation. They diagnose the problem, decide on appropriate action, operate, and monitor the patient after the operation. Patients may be referred to a surgeon by other hospital doctors and general practitioners, or through admission to an accident and emergency department.

Surgeons require in-depth knowledge of physiology, biochemistry, pathology and anatomy, and work in one of the nine surgical specialities including cardiothoracic surgery, general surgery, neurosurgery and plastic surgery.

The job of a consultant surgeon includes seeing patients in the outpatient clinic, leading a team of nurses and other doctors in the operating theatre, and making ward rounds to see patients before and after surgery. They make notes for patient records and write letters to general practitioners, advising them of their patients’ condition and treatment.

They are also responsible for training and supervising more junior doctors and other health care professionals in the hospital. Some surgeons carry out research and write papers for publication.

What's the working environment like working as a Surgeon?

Surgeons work long and unsocial hours including nights, weekends and on-call duty. New European legislation will reduce the number of hours worked, but surgeons will still be expected to work unsocial hours as part of their working week and on-call duty. Opportunities for flexible working, part-time work and job sharing are available.

Surgeons work in operating theatres, hospital wards and consulting rooms, wearing protective clothing during operations.

Operations can be physically demanding and stressful, requiring long periods of standing and bending.

What does it take to become a Surgeon?

To be a surgeon you should:

  • have an interest in and concern for the well-being of patients
  • have excellent communication skills
  • be able to put people at their ease and inspire their trust and confidence
  • work well in and be able to lead a team
  • be able to work under pressure and make quick clear decisions
  • work consistently to high professional standards
  • be prepared to continually update your knowledge and learn new techniques
  • have excellent practical skills and manual dexterity
  • be able to train, teach and supervise staff
  • have an interest and ability in science.

Surgeon Career Opportunities

Most of the 14,000 surgeons in the UK work in the NHS. A small but increasing number work in hospitals in the private sector. Many NHS surgeons take on private patients.

Competition for posts can be fierce and relocation to progress through the training grades is likely. Surgeons begin independent practice as a consultant, normally between the ages of 32 and 34.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Surgeon that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

NHS Learning and Development Service
Tel: 08000 150 850

British Medical Association (BMA)
Tavistock Square
Tel: 020 7387 4499

Royal College of Surgeons of England
35-43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
Tel: 020 7405 3474

Facts and Stats:

  • The biggest blood transfusion was carried out in 1970 and totalled 1,080 litres.
  • The record number of surviving multiple births is seven, recorded in both Illinois, USA and Saudi Arabia.
  • The thumb has a special section, separate from the area that controls the fingers, reserved for it in the brain.

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