In this article, we explore the orthopedic surgeon job description, educational requirements, and many other aspects of a career in orthopedic surgery. An orthopedic surgeon is a physician who has been educated and trained to diagnose and treat injuries, disorders, and diseases of the musculoskeletal system. This system includes bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and tendons.
Orthopedic surgeons treat a variety of conditions such as fractures and dislocations, arthritis, and damage to tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Some practitioners choose to focus on general orthopedic surgery, while others choose a specialty such as sports medicine, joint replacement, or a specific part of the body.
Job Overview: What Does An Orthopedic Surgeon Do?
Orthopedic surgeons work with patients of different ages and backgrounds to find a diagnosis and a course of treatment, which may include surgery, physical therapy, or medication. They typically work in a clinical setting or within a specialty hospital.
They are highly qualified, having received over a decade of education and specialized training. Orthopedics is one of the top-paying medical specialties.
Orthopedic Surgeon Job Duties
- Conduct patient interviews to discuss their concerns and symptoms, and gather information about their medical history and allergies.
- Educate patients about treatments and procedures.
- Make diagnoses, and do surgical and noninvasive procedures.
- Prescribe medications and supplements.
- Schedule facilities and coordinate medical staff for operations.
- Keep updated records of patient services and treatments.
- Develop post-operative care plans, and recommend lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet and exercise that will offer benefits during the healing process.
- Examine surgical instruments and equipment to ensure they are sterile and ready for the procedure.
- Supervise and guide the education of medical students and residents.
- Refer patients to other medical professionals such as physical therapists.
- Conduct research and participate in continuing education.
- Provide families with treatment updates and educate them about the recovery process.
Orthopedic Surgeon Job Essential Skills
Communication skills. Orthopedic surgeons must be able to explain diagnoses and treatment plans in terms the patient can easily understand. They must also be able to lead and manage multidisciplinary teams of healthcare staff.
Problem-solving skills. Orthopedic surgeons encounter complex problems on a daily basis, and must be able to make decisions quickly and with a reasonable amount of confidence.
Good manual dexterity. A high degree of manual dexterity is essential in the orthopedic surgeon job description. An orthopedic surgeon must also have good hand-eye coordination, as well as excellent vision and visuospatial awareness.
Physical stamina. Orthopedic surgeons must have the excellent physical stamina to cope with the demands of surgery.
Becoming an Orthopedic Surgeon
Orthopedic surgery is a competitive field that requires over a decade of formal education and training. You must first complete a four-year undergraduate education, after which you have to complete four years at an accredited medical school, followed by a five-year surgical residency.
Finally, you must practice orthopedic surgery for two years and pass written and oral examinations to become a board certified orthopedic specialist.
Qualifications and Training
There are 170 accredited orthopedics programs in the U.S., which have about 650 residency positions available each year. To be considered as a candidate for an orthopedic residency program, you must be licensed to practice general medicine. You must also demonstrate a strong academic ability, coupled with an adeptness in manual dexterity, mechanical ability, and exceptional three-dimensional visualization skills.
The orthopedic surgery residency is a post-graduate clinical training program. During the course of the five-year program, you will complete rotations where you receive in-depth clinical and surgical training in all orthopedic subspecialties.
Your performance is closely monitored during the course of the residency, ensuring you obtain requisite knowledge and develop technical skills. You will be formally evaluated by a supervising faculty member after each rotation.
To become a board certified orthopedic surgeon, you must complete written and oral examinations administered by the American Board of Orthopedic Surgery. Board certification is not required, but it sets the physician apart as possessing the adequate knowledge and training to be an orthopedic specialist.
You can begin planning for your orthopedic residency while still in medical school. Attend orthopedic department conferences, look for a mentor in orthopedics at your school, and volunteer to assist with an orthopedic-related research project. These experiences will help establish your reputation and distinguish your application from the ones of other applicants.
Continue to seek out opportunities during your residency. You can facilitate professional development by joining a committee and attending national meetings. Get involved with teaching by giving lectures and presentations.
As an orthopedic surgeon, learning and training will be an ongoing and necessary job component to maintain board certification and stay informed about developments in the field.
Orthopedic surgeons typically work 50 to 60 hours each week, excluding on-call time. Depending on the practice environment, on-call time and work schedules can vary. Private solo practitioners work long hours to establish their practice, but have some measure of control as to how much they work.
Orthopedic group practitioners typically work fewer hours than a solo practitioner and spend less time on-call. University academic practitioners work the most hours due to the demands of academic productivity, such as supervising residents, running clinical trials, and conducting hands-on research.
Orthopedic surgeons often have early morning meetings and must handle the administrative aspects of insurance, emerging health care policy, and lawyers. These are all necessary functions of providing care.
Job Outlook & Advancement Opportunities
As an orthopedic surgeon, you will have the opportunity to help people through interesting and fulfilling work. While orthopedic surgery is competitive, requiring extensive education and training, employment is projected to grow due to the demand for services by a growing and aging population.
Orthopedic surgery can be a financially rewarding career. Pay is largely dependent upon where you practice geographically and the system you practice in. The median annual salary of an orthopedic surgeon in the United States is around $362,061, with a range between $121,200 and $552,778. Additional income may be derived from the development of orthopedic devices and procedures, or by serving as a team physician for a sports organization.
Additional training after becoming a licensed physician will increase income potential as well. This will enable you to pay back your medical education debt at a faster rate, increasing the return on investment.
Orthopedic surgery is a competitive field, requiring years of formal education and specialized training. While there are many challenges to the job, the ability to provide care to those in need is a rewarding experience. The orthopedic surgeon job description offers a wide variety of specializations that lead to numerous employment opportunities in diverse healthcare settings, as well as financial stability.