Physicians who specialize in women’s reproductive health care are called obstetricians. They monitor patients during their pregnancies, deliver babies, and provide postnatal care.
These doctors are also trained as gynecologists, who diagnose and treat diseases and disorders in women that are not related to pregnancy. Accordingly, they are known as ob/gyns or “women’s doctors.”
Becoming an obstetrician entails many years of education and training, but results in some of the highest-paying careers in medicine. Ob/gyns have the satisfaction of playing major roles in maintaining the health of women and their infants.
Obstetrician Job Description
Obstetricians are knowledgeable about all the systems of a woman’s body. They provide general medical care, and are trained to prevent, diagnose, and treat ailments.
Women’s health problems include breast and cervical cancer, uterine bleeding, infertility, hormonal disorders, incontinence, renal disease, pelvic disorders, and sexually transmitted diseases. Diagnostic procedures involving sonography, x-rays, and other tests enable obstetricians to pinpoint the cause and extent of a condition.
These doctors perform services such as biopsies, Pap smears, laser surgery, laparoscopies, ovarian cystectomies, hysteroscopies, and tubal ligations. They also conduct hysterectomies, myomectomies, Cesarean sections, and circumcisions.
Prenatal care usually begins when a woman has been pregnant for about three months. In the final couple of months, visits to ob/gyns are typically scheduled weekly to monitor the mother’s health and the development of the fetus.
Most obstetricians work in their own practices, or in the offices or clinics of other physicians. Many are employed in hospitals, while some work at outpatient-care centers, colleges, and universities.The responsibilities of an obstetrician include:
- Meet with patients to learn their medical histories and conditions
- Consult pregnant women regarding ways to promote their health and that of their fetuses
- Monitor the development of fetuses
- Deliver babies in accordance with protocols designed to protect the mother and child
- Provide postnatal care by advising women how to care for their infants
- Diagnose ailments in various systems of women’s bodies
- Explain to patients the risks and benefits of treatment and therapy options
- Provide noninvasive treatments and teach patients therapeutic methods
- Coordinate nurses, assistants, anesthesiologists, and specialists for surgical procedures
- Conduct surgery to remove cancerous tissues and correct disorders
- Prescribe medication and refer patients to specialists
- If in private practice, perform finance, management, and administration tasks
- Maintain patients’ medical records and file reports
- Oversee medical facilities’ disease-prevention programs
- Participate in research studies involving medical techniques, treatments, and medications
- Keep up-to-date by obtaining continuing education and reading medical journals
An obstetrician, like all doctors, should develop a good “bedside manner.” This term refers to how a physician communicates with a patient. The tone needs to be confident and professional, yet warm and understanding. Ob/gyns must be able to effectively explain medical procedures, as well as health-maintenance techniques for women and babies.
This can be a stressful profession, as some women suffer from serious (even life-threatening) conditions. Patients may be anxious or upset. Surgery is a high-pressure situation, in which a mistake could have dire consequences. Surgeons have to stand, and maintain their focus and concentration, for long periods. Performing operations calls for manual dexterity and attention to detail.
How to Become an Obstetrician
High school students anticipating careers in medicine are wise to take science and math classes. Biology, chemistry, physics, and math are recommended.
The next step is to earn a four-year undergraduate degree, preferably in a major science like biology or chemistry. Courses include biology, organic chemistry, advanced math, and English. While pursuing a bachelor’s degree, a prospective doctor may obtain practical experience by volunteering or working part time at a medical clinic or hospital. This may help win acceptance to medical school.
To become a physician of any sort, a postgraduate degree from an accredited medical school is necessary. To be eligible for admission, successful completion of the Medical College Admission Test is mandated. Medical school lasts four years, after which internship and residency requirements must be fulfilled. Residency programs generally involve working with licensed professionals in the field for at least four years. Fellowships recognized by the Accredited Council of Graduate Medical Education are recommended.
The time required to complete an internship and residency depends upon the ob/gyn specialty being pursued. An obstetrician may concentrate on acute and chronic conditions, adolescent gynecology, behavioral disorders, endocrinology, health maintenance during pregnancy, infertility, pregnancy and delivery, urinary-tract disorders, or another speciality. Among the subspecialties are maternal-fetal medicine, urogynecology, pelvic reconstructive surgery, and menopausal and geriatric gynecology.
Every state mandates that obstetricians be licensed. The typical requirements are proof having obtained the appropriate education and training, and passage of a nationally administered exam.
Professional certification is provided by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Applicants must pass a written test to qualify. The certificate must be renewed every 10 years.
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Obstetrician Job Description SummaryHere is a short recap of the obstetrician job description:
- Provide medical care to women
- 4 year bachelor’s degree
- 4 year medical school program
- 4 additional years of residency program
- Must be licensed to practice
- 18% employment growth by 2022