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Surgeons deliver patient-centered care focused on understanding their patients holistically. They work collaboratively with other medical professionals to promote health, prevent illness, and address patients' complete surgical and medical needs through precise operations and procedures.

The Rigorous Training and Vital Role of Surgeons

Surgeons complete extensive medical training, including four years of medical school and a multi-year residency program, to gain the knowledge and skills required to perform operations and other invasive procedures on patients. This intensive education prepares them to provide precise, lifesaving surgical care.

In their day-to-day work, surgeons deliver patient-centered, holistic care focused on illness prevention, health promotion and education, and truly understanding their patients’ health issues and concerns. They serve as leaders of the collaborative healthcare team across diverse settings.

Patients encounter surgeons in various environments, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and office-based practices. Their training enables them to perform complex operations, manage patients’ care before and after surgery, order diagnostic tests, report updates to referring providers, and much more. Specifically, surgeons may perform procedures such as:

The distinctions between surgeons, primary care physicians, and other providers relate to the specific educational, certification, and licensing requirements demanded of their roles. For example, surgeons must complete medical school and residencies before obtaining state licenses and board certifications in their surgical specialties.


What Skills Does a Surgeon Require?

Effective communication abilities allow surgeons to collaborate smoothly with other healthcare team members like nurses, physicians, and additional providers. Clear explanation of complex medical information to patients and families is also vital. A compassionate bedside manner greatly aids the provision of patient care, so those genuinely devoted to caring for others thrive as surgeons.

Expert organizational talents help surgeons manage the intense demands of this role where patients’ lives rely heavily on the surgeon’s skill, judgment and ability to simultaneously juggle multiple complex cases.

Comfort with blood, bodily fluids, open incisions and internal anatomy is absolutely essential, as surgeons directly expose, manipulate and suture patients’ organs and tissues on a regular basis. Dealing with these graphic realities of the human body is not for everyone, but an innate fascination with the intricacies of anatomy suits this profession well.

How Do You Become a Surgeon?

To become a surgeon, you must complete a bachelor’s degree with coursework in biology, chemistry, physics, math and other sciences to prepare for medical school. From there, you need to enroll in an accredited medical school program, which combines classroom learning with clinical rotations for four years. These programs teach subjects such as:

Once graduating from medical school, you must complete 3-7 years of hands-on residency training in general surgery or a surgical specialty like neurosurgery or cardiothoracic surgery. This intensive phase develops the skills and experience needed to operate independently.

After residency, you must apply for authorization to take board certification exams through the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS). Passing these rigorous, standardized tests in both general surgery and your specialty allows you to receive credentials to legally work as a certified surgeon.

There are opportunities to pursue fellowships for additional subspecialty training:


And many employers require board recertification on an ongoing basis to demonstrate up-to-date surgical expertise.

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