Plastic surgeons are medical doctors who perform operations to repair and alter various parts of the human body. Most conduct either cosmetic surgery, to change a person’s appearance; or reconstructive surgery, to correct damaged or malformed features. Specialties include burn treatment, microsurgery, laser surgery, pediatrics, tissue transfers, and body contouring.

Plastic surgeons generally work in hospitals or clinics. Many have private offices where they consult with patients before and after surgical procedures.

A substantial financial investment, and many years of education and training, are necessary to become a plastic surgeon. The demand for these doctors is strong, especially in rural and other underserved areas. The development of new technologies, and the increasing number of seniors, are among the factors fueling job growth in this field. Rewards come in the form of high salaries and the satisfaction that results from improving patients’ lives.

Plastic Surgeon Job Description

People suffering from injuries, birth defects, and other genetic deformities, or improperly developed bone structure, go to plastic surgeons for help. Often, reconstruction of facial features is involved. Surgery also reshapes or corrects hands, feet, ears, torso, and other exterior body parts. These operations may be needed to improve a patient’s bodily functions or appearance.

Skin grafts, the transplanting of tissue, is one of the common procedures. Skin may be transferred to a damaged area from another part of the body, or from a donor. Other types of operations include collagen injections, rhinoplasties, and chemical peels. Plastic surgeons perform face lifts, tummy tucks, and breast enhancements and reductions. More complex procedures entail sexual reassignment (commonly known as a sex change) and contracture surgery (drawing together muscle or scar tissue to correct a deformity).

The responsibilities of a plastic surgeon include:
  • Meet with a patient to learn complaints, symptoms, needs and desires, and medical history;
  • Diagnose the problem, suggest a medical procedure to correct it, and explain the benefits and risks;
  • Schedule the operation and line up the necessary nurses, anesthesiologists, assistants, specialists, or other medical professionals who are needed;
  • Perform procedures to improve the patient’s appearance, repair damaged tissues, or correct deformities;
  • Meet with the patient following the surgery and make post-operative recommendations;
  • If maintaining a private office, hire and supervise administrative and medical staff, and oversee finances; and
  • Receive continuing education, read medical manuals, and attend conferences.

Plastic Surgeon Prerequisites

Plastic surgeons are dedicated professionals whose duties can be challenging. They sometimes work more than full time, and have to remain standing for hours to complete some types of surgery. Those who serve in emergency rooms also need to be talented at trauma care and dealing with highly stressful situations.

Plastic surgeons must have a steady hand, good eye-hand coordination, and attention to detail to perform medical procedures. They should be skilled in counseling patients, as well. Good communication with patients and medical associates is vital. Plastic surgeons need to be good listeners, and demonstrate sympathy and understanding to their patients. Doctors who run their own offices also must have financial, business, and management abilities.

How to become a Plastic Surgeon

A student wishing to become any type of medical doctor must first obtain a bachelor’s degree from a four-year college. The recommended major for a prospective doctor is pre-medicine or a science like biology. Students are advised to take chemistry, physics, and science courses, as well as math, English, humanities, and social-science classes.

After getting an undergraduate degree, it is time to take the Medical College Admission Test. Passing this exam is required to attend an accredited four-year medical school. Tuition fees, admission requirements, and geographic location are among the factors students consider in choosing a university. Because of the competition among students, they often have to reach out to multiple medical schools before being admitted to one. Good undergraduate grades, as well as letters of recommendation, can make the difference between being accepted or rejected.

The first two years of medical school feature courses in anatomy, neurology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and other subjects. Students learn in classrooms and laboratories. In the last two years, they gain experience in various specialties by working in clinics.

After graduating from medical school with a doctor of medicine degree, the next step is to complete a residency requirement. No specific cosmetic plastic surgeon residency exists, so candidates must enrol in residencies pertaining to dermatology, general surgery, oral/maxillofacial surgery and similar fields. Resident programs takes three to five years, with an additional 2 years required for certain specialties. Most Following their residencies, surgeons may undergo fellowship training for an additional one to two years specializing in cosmetic plastic surgery.

Plastic Surgeon Certification

The American Board of Cosmetic Surgery provides certification for plastic surgeons who have done at least 50 operations during their residencies. Applicants for certificates must pass oral and written exams. Students choose whether to be tested in cosmetic surgery of body extremities, dermatologic cosmetic surgery, facial cosmetic surgery, or general cosmetic surgery. The board also requires that applicants have advanced cardiac life-support certification and hospital operating privileges.

Plastic Surgeon Salary

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Plastic Surgeon Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the plastic surgeon job description:
  • Perform cosmetic surgeries on various parts of the human body
  • 4 year bachelor’s degree
  • 4 year medical school program
  • 3 to 5 years of residency program
  • 1 to 2 additional years specializing in cosmetic surgery
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 18% employment growth by 2022