Trauma Surgeon Job Description

Of all the jobs in the medical profession, perhaps none is as challenging or difficult as that of the trauma surgeon. These doctors deal with horrific situations, treating patients with all sorts of injuries and illnesses. Special training is needed to be able to handle such stressful situations.

Trauma surgeons generally work in emergency wards at hospitals. They help patients with severe and life-threatening injuries like blunt-force trauma and deep wounds. Some patients are hurt in traffic accidents, violent attacks, and household mishaps. Others suffer from heart disease and other critical ailments that require emergency surgery.

After examining a patient and diagnosing the problem, the trauma surgeon performs operations on various parts of the body. Emergency operations frequently are conducted on the stomach, pancreas, spleen, and colon. Other procedures are designed to stop blood loss, repair soft tissues and broken bones, extract objects like bullets that have penetrated the body, and reduce swelling.

 The duties of a trauma surgeon include:
    • Examine the patient and make an initial assessment;
    • Ask the patient or family members about complaints, symptoms, and medical history;
    • Conduct diagnostic tests like X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs;
    • Diagnose the injury or illness and determine the appropriate medical procedure;
    • Discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure with the patient and family members;
    • Plan the procedure, and order instruments and other supplies;
    • Coordinate nurses, assistants, anesthesiologists, specialists, and others required for the surgery;
    • Perform the operation, in accordance with accepted methods;
    • Order antibiotics, special diets, sedatives, and other prescriptions for post-operative treatment;
    • Refer patients to specialists and other professionals;
    • Create and update patient records;
    • Consult with and assist other doctors;
    • Participate in research studies involving surgical methods; and
    • Take continuing-education classes, keep up-to-date on techniques by reading medical manuals, and attend professional conferences.

Trauma Surgeon Prerequisites

Not every doctor is cut out to be a trauma surgeon. As the title implies, this position requires the capacity to cope with traumatic situations. Trauma surgeons work in an intense, high-stakes environment. They literally hold in their hands the lives of patients with life-threatening injuries and illnesses.

These doctors never know what the next ambulance may bring to them. They face grisly injuries that require them to have a strong stomach as well as expert medical skills. Another challenge is dealing with patients and their families, who can be extremely upset. No matter how desperate or chaotic the situation, a trauma surgeon must remain calm and focused under pressure.

Trauma surgeons need superb eye-hand coordination and the ability to pay close attention to detail. They must have good communication skills, to be able to obtain information from patients and coordinate the surgical team. Standing for hours at a time is sometimes required because of the extent of patients’ injuries. The working hours may be long and irregular.

How to Become a Trauma Surgeon

Becoming a trauma surgeon requires many years of study and practice. The process is expensive and entails a lot of hard work. The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree, preferably in pre-medicine, from a four-year college or university. Students planning to be doctors take biology, chemistry, physics, and other science courses. Their class schedule also may feature math, English, the humanities, and social sciences. In addition, students work in medical laboratories.

The prospective trauma surgeon must next complete four years of study at an accredited medical school. Classes include anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, and pharmacology.

Upon graduating as a medical doctor, the student begins a residency to obtain practical experience. These residencies, which typically last three to five years, provide opportunities to assist surgeons with operations on patients with a wide array of injuries and illnesses.

Following the residency, a doctor has to finish a fellowship program focused on trauma and critical care. Organ transplantation and other complex procedures are taught. Students also learn how to assess and manage patients in emergency situations.

Trauma Surgeon Certification

A trauma surgeon needs more than education and training to practice medicine. Every state also requires surgeons to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination, General Surgery Qualifying Examination, and General Surgery Certifying Examination. These tests qualify doctors for certification as trauma surgeons from the American Board of Medical Specialists.

Following their residencies, fellowship in critical care and trauma that last between one and two years are required. Upon successful completion, a doctor may apply for certification in surgical critical care.

Trauma Surgeon Salary

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Trauma Surgeon Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the trauma surgeon job description:
  • Examine and treat patients with life threatening conditions
  • Work with nurses and surgical technologists
  • 4 year bachelor’s degree
  • 4 year medical school
  • 3 to 5 additional years of residency program
  • Must be licensed to practice
  • 18% employment growth by 2022