Career Development

What Does an Orthopedic Surgeon Do?

Find out what an orthopedic surgeon does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as an orthopedic surgeon.

An orthopedic surgeon is a medical doctor who specializes in treating disorders of the bones, joints and spine. They commonly treat patients with fractures, sprains, dislocations, arthritis, sports injuries and other musculoskeletal problems.

Orthopedic surgeons are often called upon to perform complex surgical procedures on these areas of the body. These procedures may include reconstructive surgery following an accident or injury, joint replacement surgery due to osteoarthritis or other degenerative conditions, or spinal surgery to correct scoliosis or other spinal deformities.

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Duties

Orthopedic surgeons have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Performing surgery to repair broken bones, including fractures in the arms or legs, spinal fusions, and joint replacements
  • Providing postoperative care to patients, including assessing their progress and making adjustments to their treatment plans as needed
  • Recommending physical therapy, braces, crutches, or other aids to help patients recover from their injuries or conditions
  • Performing surgery on the spine to correct spinal deformities such as scoliosis or kyphosis
  • Diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems and injuries, such as fractures, sprains, strains, tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis, tumors, and infections of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and joints
  • Diagnosing and treating disorders of the hand and wrist, including carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis of the hand
  • Diagnosing and treating disorders of the hip, knee, or ankle, including osteoarthritis, torn cartilage, bursitis, tendinitis, fractures, dislocations, and arthritis
  • Providing surgical treatment to patients with neuromusculoskeletal disorders by performing nerve blocks and spinal cord stimulation procedures using fluoroscopy

Orthopedic Surgeon Salary & Outlook

Orthopedic surgeons’ salaries vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of practice they have.

  • Median Annual Salary: $255,000 ($122.6/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $495,000 ($237.98/hour)

The employment of orthopedic surgeons is expected to decline over the next decade.

The need for orthopedic surgeons will depend on the health of the older population, as people age they are more likely to develop conditions that require orthopedic surgery. However, the large baby-boom generation is less healthy than previous generations and is more likely to develop conditions requiring orthopedic surgery. As a result, demand for orthopedic surgeons may not keep pace with the needs of an aging population.

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Requirements

To become an orthopedic surgeon, one typically needs to complete the following:

Education: To practice as an orthopedic surgeon, you must first earn a bachelor’s degree. You can major in any field you choose, but most orthopedic surgeons choose a degree in biology, chemistry or another science-related field.

After earning your bachelor’s degree, you must complete a medical degree. To do so, you must first complete a pre-med program. This program includes courses in biology, chemistry, physics and other science-related subjects.

After completing your pre-med program, you must attend medical school. Medical school is a four-year program that includes classroom and laboratory instruction, as well as clinical rotations. During your clinical rotations, you will spend time in a variety of medical settings, including hospitals, clinics and doctor’s offices.

Training & Experience: Orthopedic surgeons receive most of their training during their residencies. During these three to seven years, they work under the supervision of experienced orthopedic surgeons. They learn how to perform surgeries, diagnose conditions and treat patients. They also learn how to manage a clinic and interact with patients.

Orthopedic surgeons can also receive additional training through fellowships. During these programs, they work closely with experienced surgeons to further their knowledge of orthopedics. They may learn how to perform specific procedures or specialize in a certain area of orthopedics.

Certifications & Licenses: All doctors, including orthopedic surgeons, must earn their medical license by passing the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination. Surgeons complete the first two parts of this exam during their residency and another part at the end of their residency. Orthopedic surgeons might also get board-certified to show their skills and knowledge.

Orthopedic Surgeon Skills

Orthopedic surgeons need the following skills in order to be successful:

Surgical skills: Orthopedic surgeons use surgical skills to perform procedures on patients. They use their surgical skills to diagnose and treat patients with musculoskeletal disorders. They use their surgical skills to perform surgeries on patients to repair or replace damaged joints.

Communication skills: Communication skills are necessary for orthopedic surgeons to have because they often need to explain procedures and treatment plans to their patients. They also need to communicate with their patients’ other medical professionals and their patients’ family members.

Technical skills: Orthopedic surgeons use technical skills to diagnose and treat patients. They use their technical skills to read medical records, examine patients and interpret test results. They also use technical skills to perform surgeries and other procedures.

Analytical skills: Analytical skills are the ability to assess a situation and determine the best course of action. Surgeons use analytical skills to determine the cause of a patient’s pain and develop a treatment plan that addresses the issue. They also use analytical skills to determine if a patient is a good candidate for a particular procedure.

Teamwork skills: Surgeons often work with other medical professionals, such as anesthesiologists, nurses and physical therapists, to ensure their patients receive the best care possible. Working well with others is an important skill for orthopedic surgeons to have, as it can help them collaborate with other medical professionals to provide the best treatment for their patients.

Orthopedic Surgeon Work Environment

Orthopedic surgeons work in hospitals, clinics, and private offices. They typically work long hours, including evenings and weekends. They also may be on call 24 hours a day, which means they may have to work at odd hours with little or no notice. Orthopedic surgeons often work with other surgeons, medical specialists, and support staff, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners. They also consult with patients and their families to discuss treatment options and expected outcomes.

Orthopedic Surgeon Trends

Here are three trends influencing how orthopedic surgeons work. Orthopedic surgeons will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Use of Robotics in Orthopedic Surgery

The use of robotics in orthopedic surgery is a trend that is quickly gaining popularity among surgeons. This is due to the many benefits that it offers, such as increased precision and accuracy during procedures.

As more and more surgeons begin to utilize robotics in their practices, orthopedic surgeons will need to learn how to use these devices in order to stay competitive. They will also need to be able to provide patients with information about the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery.

Patient Education Becomes More Important

As patients become more educated about their health care options, they are looking for doctors who can provide them with the information they need to make informed decisions. This is especially true when it comes to surgical procedures, where patients want to know what to expect before going under the knife.

Orthopedic surgeons can capitalize on this trend by becoming experts in patient education. They can do this by developing resources that explain common procedures in easy-to-understand terms, or by meeting with patients one-on-one to answer any questions they may have.

More Focus on Preventative Care

As healthcare costs continue to rise, hospitals and other medical facilities are placing a greater emphasis on preventive care. This means that orthopedic surgeons will need to focus on providing services that help patients avoid injuries and illnesses in the first place.

One way to do this is by promoting healthy living habits, such as exercising regularly and eating a nutritious diet. In addition, orthopedic surgeons can also provide advice and guidance on how to prevent specific injuries, such as sports injuries or falls.

How to Become an Orthopedic Surgeon

An orthopedic surgeon career path can be rewarding and fulfilling. It’s important to consider the many factors that will influence your decision, such as specialty, location, and hours worked. You should also think about what you want out of your career and how you want to contribute to society.

No matter which direction you choose, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the latest research and techniques in your field. This can be done by reading journals and attending conferences. You should also network with other professionals in your field and participate in volunteer work.

Related: How to Write an Orthopedic Surgeon Resume

Advancement Prospects

Orthopedic surgeons can advance their careers by becoming board certified in their specialty. Board certification demonstrates to patients, employers, and peers that a surgeon has the knowledge and skills necessary to provide high-quality care. To become board certified, surgeons must pass a written exam and a practical exam.

Surgeons can also advance their careers by taking on leadership roles. For example, surgeons may become chief of surgery at their hospital or head of their department. Surgeons may also become involved in medical research or teaching.

Orthopedic Surgeon Job Description Example

Orthopedic surgeons are medical doctors who treat patients with problems of the bones, joints, muscles, and nervous system. They use both surgical and nonsurgical methods to treat their patients.

We are looking for an orthopedic surgeon to join our team. The ideal candidate will have completed a residency in orthopedic surgery and be board certified. He or she will have experience treating patients with a wide range of orthopedic problems. The surgeon will be responsible for evaluating patients, performing surgery, and providing postoperative care.

The surgeon will work closely with other members of the orthopedic team, including physician assistants, nurse practitioners, physical therapists, and occupational therapists. He or she will also maintain a good working relationship with referring physicians.

Duties & Responsibilities

  • Perform pre-operative and post-operative care for patients
  • Educate patients on their conditions, expected outcomes of surgery, and post-operative rehabilitation
  • Manage a caseload of patients with various orthopedic conditions
  • Perform surgeries to correct deformities, relieve pain, and improve function
  • Utilize both surgical and nonsurgical treatments when appropriate
  • Select and order diagnostic tests, such as x-rays and MRIs, to aid in diagnosis
  • Prescribe medications to control pain and inflammation
  • Refer patients to other specialists, such as physical therapists, when necessary
  • Keep abreast of new developments in the field through continued education and research
  • Maintain accurate patient records
  • Adhere to all hospital policies and procedures
  • Participate in quality assurance initiatives

Required Skills and Qualifications

  • Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree
  • Completion of an accredited residency program in orthopedic surgery
  • Board certification by the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery (ABOS)
  • Eligibility for medical licensure in the state where practicing
  • Excellent communication, interpersonal, and team-building skills
  • Proven leadership experience

Preferred Skills and Qualifications

  • Fellowship training in a subspecialty area of orthopedic surgery
  • Experience working with electronic health records (EHRs)
  • Research experience
  • Teaching experience

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