Is being a surgeon stressful?
What’s it like to be a surgeon?
Many TV medical dramas feature the lives of high-flying surgeons.
One moment, said high-flying surgeon is dealing with a life-or-death decision, the next and they are handling a difficult relationship.
It’s true that surgeons are, or can be, involved in saving lives quite often.
Nevertheless, the reality of a typical surgeon’s life also means dealing with stress, with burnout, with depression, and possibly, dealing with a malpractice lawsuit – a malpractice lawsuit that can drag on for years.
So, is being a surgeon the right choice for you?
Let’s consider the advantages and the disadvantages of being a surgeon.
Advantages of Being a Surgeon
1 Money and career prospects
Surgeons are well paid. Surgeons are very well paid.
That’s understandable, given that, to become a surgeon, the educational requirements are extensive to say the least. Plus, there’s a high level of stress related to the work.
As of June, 2019, in the U.S., a general surgeon, on average, was earning a salary of $386,272, according to salary.com.
Plus, there are other job-related perks, inclusive of disability and health insurance, in addition to vacation time.
What’s more, job prospects for surgeons are looking bright. Over the next 10 years or so, projected job growth for surgeons is 15 percent.
2 Job satisfaction
In spite of the high job-related stress levels, surgeons, as a general rule, are happy – particularly when not at work.
According to stats collated by Medscape.com in 2017, 52 percent of general surgeons in the U.S. are either very happy or extremely happy when not at work. That may be something to do with the amount of money they earn.
While at work, some 27 percent of general surgeons in the U.S. said they were either very happy or extremely happy in the same Medscape.com survey.
Disadvantages of Being a Surgeon
1 Education is lengthy and costly
To become a surgeon, there’s a very lengthy educational path ahead of you.
That educational path starts out with the completion of a bachelor’s degree. You’ve got to have excellent grades, too.
Then, you must study for and sit your Medical College Admissions Test.
Next, there’s medical school, which takes four years.
While you’re at medical school, you also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
Once you’ve completed medical school and passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination, there’s the surgical residency to get through.
How long is the surgical residency?
A minimum of five years.
Well, that depends on your specialty. And, dependent on your chosen specialty, you may wish to complete a fellowship.
It’s worth noting that throughout your period of residency, the working hours will be very long and the pay will be low.
How about student loan debt?
What can you expect in terms of the amount of student loan debt to become a surgeon?
Because there is so much studying involved over many years, as you can imagine, student loan debt for surgeons can prove to be immense.
While this is not an account provided by a surgeon (the author of the article is, nevertheless, a medical doctor), it’s a harrowing account all the same. Have a read: U.S. doctors deal with crippling student loan debts.
2 Long hours, high stress levels, work burnout
The typical workday for a surgeon “may” look something like this:
- Take a patient’s medical history
- Update charts and patient information to show current findings and treatments
- Order tests for nurses or other healthcare staff to perform
- Review test results to identify any abnormal findings
- Recommend and design a plan of treatment
- Address concerns or answer questions that patients have about their health and well-being
- Help patients take care of their health by discussing topics such as proper nutrition and hygiene
There might be additional responsibilities involved in their work, at least from time to time.
Those responsibilities can include training new doctors, carrying out medical research, writing and publishing research papers.
Obviously, surgeons must work long hours to deal with all of these responsibilities.
And, those long hours, coupled with having to make life-or-death decisions, comes stress and burnout.
In a 2018 survey carried out by Medscape, it was found that no less than 49 percent of general surgeons said that they were either depressed or burned out because of work.
3 Potential for exposure to malpractice suits
If you’re thinking about becoming a surgeon, and you’re still not put off after reading the points above, perhaps this point will be enough to push you into focusing elsewhere in terms of career moves.
Lawsuits are a major worry for surgeons.
Surgeons are among the medical professionals that are most likely to be sued for medical malpractice.
According to the Medscape Malpractice Report 2017, surgeons were at the top of the list in terms of which medical professionals experienced the most medically-related lawsuits.
Medical lawsuits are not only lengthy in nature, but they are costly and they can negatively impact the reputation of those being sued.
And what about malpractice insurance coverage? After all, to have insurance to cover the potential for being sued makes great sense as a surgeon.
But what’s the cost of insurance?
It can cost more than $10,000 each year for medical malpractice insurance coverage.
There’s also the matter that medical malpractice lawsuits can take years to reach a conclusion.
According to the same Medscape 2017 report, some 39 percent of surgeons/ medical practitioners that were sued spent one to two years dealing with the case.
And 30 percent of those medical practitioners questioned in the survey said that it took between three and five years before the suit reached a conclusion.
Still want to be a surgeon?