If you’re interested in pursuing a career in medicine, you may have considered learning more about becoming a surgeon. While you may think you’ll be a good fit for a surgical specialty, you also know there’s more to the job than incisions and sutures. How do you know whether becoming a surgeon is the right path?
It’s true there are many different types of surgeons out there, but in general, they tend to have a number of characteristics in common. Take a look at what these physicians have to say about the hallmark traits of a great surgeon. You might even find this field is a better fit for you than you previously thought.
Though surgeons pursue countless subspecialties, they all tend to have a number of characteristics in common. Take a look at what these physicians have to say about the hallmark traits of a good surgeon. You might even find this field is a better fit for you than you previously thought.
Becoming a surgeon might be a good choice if …
1. You have great hand-eye coordination
To be a successful surgeon, your fine motor skills need to be impeccable. Dr. Inna Husain, laryngologist and assistant residency program director for simulation education at Rush University Medical Center, quickly realized this during an anatomy lab in medical school.
“It was surprising to see how intricate we are inside,” Dr. Husain recalls. “All the muscles and vessels — it was more complicated than I had imagined.”
Because of this complexity, even when using equipment to perform operations, surgeons’ movements need to be meticulous and controlled. Hand-eye coordination and manual dexterity often come down to natural ability; however, practice also helps improve those skills. Activities outside the medical realm can help as well.
“I have found recreational activities, like tai chi and learning to play an instrument have made me a better surgeon.”
“I have found recreational activities, like tai chi and learning to play an instrument, have helped me become a better surgeon,” says orthopedic surgeon Dr. Lucas Bader.
2. You can adapt at a moment’s notice
Surgical procedures don’t always go according to plan. Surgeons must maintain composure when something unexpected happens. You also need to be able to adjust on the fly, and that doesn’t just go for completing your duties in the operating room.
“There are a lot of unpredictable things that can happen in surgery, and often, this will set your plans astray,” Dr. Husain says. She also adds that “one of the hardest things is not having a predictable schedule.”
3. You have stamina
Given the unpredictable nature of surgery, you could be on your feet for long hours and miss meals. This is why, as Dr. Husain points out, physical stamina is important.
Mental endurance is equally important. You can’t let your mind wander during surgery, no matter how long the procedure. Dr. Bader believes concentration is as important for surgeons as it is for athletes. He compares performing an operation to competing in a high-stakes sporting event.
“You’re in this incredibly intense and focused state, where your primary goal is to perform at a high level for the betterment of the patient,” Dr. Bader explains.
4. You enjoy working with others
While surgery might seem like a solitary field, you actually need to interact with others frequently. You’ll communicate with other physicians and members of the medical team before, during, and after surgery.
If you’re planning on becoming a surgeon, you’ll also need to be comfortable speaking with patients. You must be able to communicate effectively with someone who is about to go through—or who recently underwent—surgery.
“You can do the best technical surgery, but if they don’t receive proper follow-up care, patients may not have a good outcome,” Dr. Husain offers.
5. You’re a natural leader
Surgery often involves a robust care team. Major operations can require a lineup that includes surgeons, anesthesiologists, physician assistants, surgical technicians, nurses, and more. There needs to be one clear captain taking charge in order to make sure everyone is on the same page.
“As a surgeon, you are the leader in the operating room,” Dr. Husain says.
Dr. Gary Linkov, medical director at City Facial Plastics, agrees that surgeons need to provide strong direction. He thinks a key part of effectively leading is being able to accurately evaluate your colleagues.
“Being able to assess the strengths and weaknesses of one’s peers allows surgeons to tailor a team-specific plan to achieve the most desired result for the patient,” Dr. Linkov offers.
6. You enjoy learning new things
The medical field is constantly evolving, and great surgeons work to continually educate themselves on new surgical techniques, medical technologies, and evolving health research.
“It sharpens vital skills, like critical analysis and creativity, and keeps a surgeon on his or her toes,” Dr. Linkov says.
7. You enjoy seeing concrete results
Not many physicians get to see noticeable improvements in their patients. In fact, many doctors work to prevent health issues from arising in the first place. Surgery is quite different. That’s part of what initially drew Dr. Husain to becoming a surgeon.
“Going into surgery was solidified for me when I did my otolaryngology rotation,” she shares. “Participating in surgeries, watching us remove cancerous growths from the head and neck, and then putting patients back together was awe-inspiring.”
See yourself as a surgeon?
For someone who possesses many of the traits outlined above, becoming a surgeon is extremely rewarding. If you feel you fall into that category, it might be time to start thinking more seriously about how to proceed.
The St. George’s University School of Medicine produces successful surgeons every year. Speaking with a practicing surgeon can give you insider knowledge into what it’s really like to work in the operating room. Start the conversation today by contacting a graduate.
Have dreams of becoming a doctor?Learn More