What is an orthopedic surgeon?
An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor that is specializing in treating injuries or conditions that affect your skeletal system. In addition to treating the bones they also treat the various tissues like joints, tendons, and ligaments and surrounding muscles that are attached to your bones and the nerves in that area. It’s more accurate name is the musculoskeletal system. Although there is “surgeon” attached to the name of the medical professional, an orthopedic surgeon does much more than surgery. They also use a variety of methods like advocating back braces to help with scoliosis and casting broken bones. An orthopedic surgeon will work with any age from babies to the elderly.
Job description of an orthopedic surgeon
Being an orthopedic surgeon demands intense skills and concentration as they will be dealing with the minute intricacies of diseases and injuries of the musculoskeletal system. An orthopedic surgeon will treat congenital deformities, joint dislocations, arthritis, and fractures. They will use surgical methods along with the aid of different correction devices like braces, pins, rods, splints, and casts to immobilize broken bones and fractures. It is one of the most specialized jobs in the medical profession. Even though they have surgeon in their job title orthopedic surgeons will also use non-surgical methods to treat various problems that are associated with your musculoskeletal system.
Basically the job description of an orthopedic surgeon is one who uses numerous activities and work plans that are required to examine, diagnose, and treat musculoskeletal diseases and injuries. They have to find the area in the patient’s body that is causing those problems, figure out the best treatment plan, and work hard to eliminate the injury and disease. If medications and treatment plans are not working then the orthopedic surgeon may have to perform surgery. Being an orthopedic surgeon you must have the ability to pay attention to details and have steady hands.
How to become an orthopedic surgeon?
Before making your career choice you should know that it is not easy to become an orthopedic surgeon as the training is rigorous and time consuming complete with 4 years to get your bachelor’s degree, 4 years of medical school, and several years of internship and residency. If you decide that you want to specialize in a certain orthopedic field you may need to take another 1 to 2 year fellowship in that particular specialty. Adding it all up it can take 12 – 14 years to become a practicing orthopedic surgeon.
Once you have graduated from high school you will need to attend a college to get your bachelor’s degree in your choice of majors but it is advisable if you are going onto medical school you should major in sciences. You should make sure that you are taking classes in chemistry, anatomy, physics, biology, and physiology because these are the classes that are required to be admitted to medical school. These classes will also help to prepare you for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). It is very competitive to get into medical school as medical schools only take a few new students each year so you should make sure that you score at least a 3.7 or higher on the MCAT and have a high GPA.
Going to medical school takes 4 years with the first part of medical school spent in laboratories and classroom where you will study microbiology, physiology, anatomy, and pharmacology. The last part of medical school is where you will do clinical rotations in different medical specialties like radiology, psychology, pediatrics, anesthesiology, and gynecology to help you decide what you are going to specialize in if you have not already decided. For those who are going to be an orthopedic surgeon you will have the opportunity to do a clinical rotation in orthopedics.
After completing medical school you will have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which consists of 3 parts. This is done to ensure that you understand the scientific principles that are necessary to practice medicine. They also want to make sure that you have an ability to work in ambulatory settings and possess patient care skills. Finishing your orthopedic residency will take 5 years. During residency you will have an opportunity to complete different surgical rotations like internal medicine, general surgery, emergency room, and surgical ICU. In addition to your surgical rotations you will get an opportunity to do rotations in different surgical sub-specialties like orthopedic surgery and cardiovascular surgery. As you gain more experience you will start to have more responsibilities and begin to concentrate on orthopedics more. You may even have the opportunity to perform spine, hand, and shoulder surgeries under supervision.
When you have finished your residency The American Board of Orthopedic Surgery offers orthopedic surgeons specialty certifications in shoulder and elbows, sports medicine, trauma, spine, hands and joint replacement, and rehabilitation. To obtain one of these certifications the orthopedic surgeon will need to have experience in that particular specialty, pass a written exam, and obtain an endorsement.
Work environment and schedule
After graduating and getting your license to become a practicing orthopedic surgeon they can start their own practice, join a group practice, work in a hospital, a sports clinic, or research lab. If you choose to work in a hospital or group practice you will work as part of a team that share administrative costs, office, and hospital duties including being on call. In any medical profession it seems as if most surgeons work long odd hours and an orthopedic surgeon is no different. Many orthopedics find themselves working long hours without having time for a break, especially if they have several surgeries scheduled that day. Even if they schedule time between surgeries things can happen where the surgery takes longer than expected and have to start on the next one immediately after finishing or if they are on call or work in a hospital they may be called to the emergency room and find themselves doing emergency surgery. It can also be hard on the feet and back because when the orthopedic surgeon is in the operating room they can spend many hours on their feet bent over an operating table.
Orthopedic surgeons on call for several days or a weekend may find themselves working non-stop with little time for sleep or eating, especially if the emergency room has a busy night that requires an orthopedic surgeon’s skills.
When working in private practice or in a group practice some work 3 days in the office and the other 2 days they are doing surgery. If they are affiliated with a particular hospital they may even be called out of their office for emergency surgery. Many of the patients that an orthopedic surgeon sees are referrals from a primary care physician. Before seeing the patient for the first time the orthopedic surgeon will go over the patient’s chart and look at any tests the primary care physician may have done to see what they might think the problem is.
When the patient sees the orthopedic surgeon for the first time they will do a personal history, ask the patients about their symptoms, doing a physical exam, and order any blood tests or diagnostic tests needed to diagnosis the problem. Some orthopedic surgeons have x-ray machines in the office and if that is the only diagnostic test done the orthopedic surgeon can read the x-ray and let the patient know then what the problem is. If it is going to take a few days to get the results or the patient has to go have the tests done elsewhere the orthopedic surgeon will have them schedule another appointment. At that time the patient will find out the result of the tests and what the treatment plan will be.
Other things that an orthopedic surgeon will do can include:
- Plan and coordinate what aftercare the patient will need after surgery
- Make hospital rounds if they have any patients in the hospital overnight after a surgery.
- Record accurate notes in the patient’s chart as to what was done such as tests and treatment plans, what their symptoms were, the diagnosis, any follow-up care, etc and make sure that all the information is secure.
Pros and cons of being an Orthopedic Surgeon
Being an orthopedic surgeon has its advantages, and you’ll find it very rewarding working in this branch of medicine. Though you might find out that not many people pursue this path, because it is a very competitive practice.
At the end of the training program, you can expect to a good wage that is mainly estimated from $155,010 to $300,100 per year. You can even start-up with your own office, in which case you could very well reach the high amount of $500,100 per year. This also comes with an hourly rate that can vary easily between $2,034 and $25,020 per hour.
What is great is the fact that orthopedic surgeons will meet their clients, and they make rounds during the regular hours of the office hours only for five days a week. Working as an orthopedic surgeon you’ll get plenty of prestige and respect as well. After finishing the residency, an orthopedic surgeon can enroll in fellowship and apply for numerous subspecialties.
You can even choose to contribute and make part of a team in clinical research and way contribute to the advancement in the field. As an orthopedic surgeon, you’ll be the main reasons for many people to get better. These patients will get the medical care they need in conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system such as affecting the bones, ligaments, nerves, muscles.
The cons are mainly linked with the certification and license of an orthopedic surgeon and in order to have them you’ll have to complete 14 years of training and the education can be pretty expensive. These years will be surrounded on some parts with stress, financial challenges, exhaustion. You can also expect the most commonly encountered emotional aspects, including the mental and the physical challenge that comes from the years of the education path.
As an orthopedic surgeon, you really need to be dedicated and committed to learning everything and be very good at what you are doing in order to pull it through.
Orthopedic Surgeon job growth
The employment job projection according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has a rate of 18% for all physicians and surgeons this including also the orthopedic surgeons. The valid need for these professionals is continuously growing due to an increase in the aging population and with the specific desire of many individuals that want to live a healthy life by functioning correctly at all ages.
The job satisfaction among these healthcare specialists is excellent, due to various factors and reasons that affect this job. Two of the most encountered in this career being the salary and the personal reward of being able to help their patients that are in a lot of need for medical care. Other is the fact that this branch is one that is needed and on high demand, due to various cases that are linked with this career.
A demand for these professionals is also encountered in the low-income regions and rural areas since many employers have a hard time finding Orthopedic Surgeons that will want to work in this kind of locations.
Orthopedic surgeon salary
The average yearly orthopedic surgeon salary is one of the highest in the medical field. How high or low the average yearly salary is depends on their years of experience, their working environment like private practice, group practice, hospital, sports clinic, etc, the geographical location such as larger cities have a larger salary than rural areas, and their educational qualification like are they specializing in any particular area of orthopedics. The average orthopedic surgeon salary is $171,470 – $374,020 but as mentioned there are a lot of factors that go into figuring out the salary.
The average yearly orthopedic salary for various work places is:
- Employed in healthcare institutes–$150,000 – $298,480
- Employed by a hospital–$149,730 – $298,770
- Employed in medical care facilities—up to $300,200
- Employed in special care surgery centers–$160,800 – $314,780
- Employed by the federal government–$103,400 – $264,000
- Employed by the state government–$33,000 – $250,000
On average the lowest paid orthopedic surgeon will make an average yearly salary of $159,400 and the highest paying orthopedic surgeon will make an average of $305,900. In addition there is also the benefit package that varies according to where the orthopedic surgeon is employed. Most benefit packages include sick days, vacation days, paid holidays, life insurance, health insurance for just the orthopedic surgeon or the family, malpractice insurance, profit sharing, pension, social security, 401K, etc. For those on call they may be supplied a cell phone or receive a stipend for using their personal cell phone. If the orthopedic surgeon goes to conferences and seminars as a part of their job to further their skills and/or to learn new technology they may have that paid for them.
Salary of an Orthopedic Surgeon in 2015
The salary for an orthopedic surgeon is very good and according to each facility salaries for these healthcare professionals will vary. In the US, the salary for someone working in this career field will vary from $171,472 and $374,025 per year. The orthopedic surgeons, who are hired in facilities such as hospitals, will receive a salary that will vary between $149,734 and $298,775 per year. Those working in medical care settings receive a salary that is estimated at about $300,220 per year.
In 2015, the salary of an orthopedic surgeon is influenced a lot according to the type of work, the experience at work. Also, in many cases, it is according to the facility in which his working this involving the public and the private setting. Those, who have their own business, can gain a higher salary than those who might work in a public institution. But this is also influenced by the lowest and the highest points of working in each state.
Orthopedic Surgeon Salary in 2016
The income of an orthopedic surgeon in the US, for the year 2016 bring positive results, since the incomes of these professional encompass six figures. The main factors that affect and impact the earnings are the location and the years of experience in the field. Other that also have a word to say when it comes to the salaries of these professionals are based on the industry, employer type, the size of the organization that they are employed by, and other as well.
According to the lowest points the incomes are estimated to reach at around $126,010 per year while on the other side, the highest payments in this branch can climb up to a higher point of $584,010 per year. In some of the particular and exceptional cases, just the bonuses can run as high as $101,010 and even higher while the profit sharing that is taken home reaches somewhere at around $127,010.
The median earnings for these specialists are estimated at around $333,098 per year and it varies according to the area of specialty and other factors. Best salaries for orthopedic surgeons are offered in Tacoma, with a percent of 43%-44% above the national average. Good salaries for these professionals can also be earned in San Jose, Dallas, Denver, and Minneapolis. On the other side lower salaries or below the median average can be found in Chicago, Huston and Indianapolis.
There is a difference in salaries also according to the gender. In this field, men tend to make more money than women. For instance, orthopedic surgeons that are of male gender tend to take home an estimated income that is comprised between $142,986 per year and up to $534,037 per year. On the other side, female orthopedic surgeons tend to gain an income that is established between $50,337 per year and up to $430,816 per year.
The orthopedic surgeon income also varies according to the setting in which he or she is working. For instance, those who are hired in general hospitals can expect to take home an income established between $119,045 per year and up to $567,138 per year while those working in surgery centers and ambulatory care can expect at an income that is comprised between $100,010 per year and up to $493,552 per year.
Orthopedic surgeon salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- In the UK the average yearly orthopedic salary is 140,000 but what it will actually be depends on how old you are when you became an orthopedic surgeon. If you are in your 20’s it would be up to 105,000, in their 30’s it would be up to 137,200 and in their 40’s and 50’s it would be up to 162,400.
- In Australia the average yearly orthopedic surgeon salary would be AU $97,671 – AU $305,209 plus they get a yearly bonus that varies.
- In Canada the average yearly orthopedic surgeon salary would be C $84,000 – C $290,874 plus they also get a yearly bonus from C $750 – C $50,868.
Conclusion on orthopedic surgeon salary
An orthopedic surgeon does some minute delicate surgeries, especially on the spine and many times whether the patient walks or not can depend on how well the orthopedic surgeon does on the surgery. Much of their surgery involves delicate surgery and many times it is up to the orthopedic surgeon to be the one that “puts” patients back together when they have been in a horrific accident or had a horrific injury. Also, their schooling and residency can take up to 12 years and if they decide to specialize they can add 2 more years doing a fellowship in that specialty. Taking all this into consideration it shows why this is one of the highest paying medical professions. Just starting out an orthopedic surgeon can have an average yearly salary of $50,000 – $250,000 but it would be depends on many factors with the two biggest being where they are employed and the geographical location. For example, if you decide to practice in New York the average yearly orthopedic surgeon salary is $100,000 – $350,000.
If an orthopedic surgeon specializes in a certain field this will help to make their average yearly salary higher plus make them more in demand. It is common to see that the orthopedic surgeons who have the most experience, work in a large city, and have a specialty make on average a yearly salary of over $800,000. Another reason why orthopedic surgeon receive such a high salary is most employers know that the schooling and training is very difficult and long. To make it the student has to be dedicated and hardworking so the employers feel that when they hire an orthopedic surgeon they will apply the same dedicated hardworking ethic to their job.
- First Published Date: 14 July, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 20 August, 2016