Orthopedic Surgery Overview
If you watch Grey’s Anatomy, perhaps you’re like me and the term orthopedic surgery immediately brings to mind Dr. Callie Torres, an orthopedic surgeon extraordinaire who resets bones with her bare hands and rocks the perfect mix of externally tough and internally emotional. Callie was always one of my favorite characters on the show, not only because she’s super interesting personally (her name is Calliope?) but also because she has one of the coolest jobs in the hospital.
It turns out that real-life orthopedic surgery is just as rewarding and interesting of a career as it is when depicted on television. This specialty focuses on the surgical correction of disorders of the bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and skin. Many surgeons focus on just one body part, though they perform surgeries involving all. Orthopedic surgeons work on a diverse array of cases with patients young and old including fractures, bone tumors, arthritis, bow legs, tendon injuries, and more.
The Path to Orthopedic Surgery
As with many specialized fields of medicine, the path to orthopedic surgery is long and strenuous. Beyond the four years of undergraduate school and four years of medical school, orthopedic surgeons complete a one-year internship in general surgery followed by a four-year residency in orthopedic surgery. Once this process is complete, many surgeons opt to complete a one-year fellowship to train in a subspecialty, though this is optional. Specialties include foot and ankle, hand microsurgery, joint replacement, oncology, pediatric, shoulder and elbow, spine, and trauma.
Salary and Growth
Salary can be as high as $600,000 according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, especially for those who go into private practice. Compared to other specialties, orthopedic surgeons rank very highly in terms of salary, with orthopedic surgeons specializing in the spine rated the highest paid specialty by Medical Group Management Association, and hip
and joint specialists rated as number six. Job growth is also high for this specialty; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has most recently predicted a 22% growth in the field. This is due in part to medical advancements that have led to an increasingly significant aging population.
Beyond job prospects and salary, orthopedic surgeons have a higher rate of job satisfaction than most physicians, and especially most surgeons. This may be attributable to the fact that much of orthopedic work is with children and the elderly. Academic studies have shown that physicians who work with these demographics are likely to have higher job satisfaction.
The Nature of Orthopedic Surgery
Orthopedic surgery requires a special skill set and personality type for success. As with many highly specialized and high paying medical fields, competition can be intense. Orthopedic surgery also requires a high level of manual dexterity and mechanical ability.
The field of orthopedic surgery is evolving and changing constantly. This is a very exciting time to be involved in orthopedics due to current technological advancements. The aging population leads to increased treatment of the elderly, especially of the joints, leading to more reconstructive surgeries. Hospitals are shifting toward more minimally invasive orthopedic surgeries, and surgeons are now able to do many examinations and repairs arthroscopically. Orthopedic surgeons are also increasingly involved with the treatment of sports injuries, and a specialty of sports medicine has evolved out of that need.
Orthopedics: A Field to Consider
For those entering the medical field or looking to select or change specialties, orthopedic surgery offers a bright outlook. Between the high salary, job satisfaction, and growth of this field, orthopedics has much to offer. If you have what it takes to become skilled in this competitive environment, orthopedic surgery is a great profession to consider.