Surgeons operate on patients in the hospital. They work with great manual skill, using a series of instruments, techniques and types of equipment. They must also use their expert knowledge of scientific areas, such as anatomy, pathology and physiology.
Generally, the surgeon will see a patient for the first time after he or she has been referred by the general practitioner or by a doctor who works in another area of the hospital, including the accident and emergency unit.
By working with the hospital doctors, or by communicating with the doctors, the surgeon diagnoses the problem and determines the most appropriate way to treat it with surgery.
In addition to working in the operating room, doing the operation itself, surgeons spend a lot of time in offices or on room visits, talking to patients.
They have to clearly explain why they need to operate, what will happen during the operation, what their risks or side effects may be, their chances of success, and how long the patient should stay in the hospital after the operation. It is important for the surgeon to reassure and inform the patient.
The particular type of operation a surgeon performs depends on his specialty. Among them are:
- General Surgery
- neurosurgery (brain)
- cardiothoracic surgery (heart and lungs)
- oral and maxillofacial surgery (head, face and neck)
- ear, nose, and throat surgery (also known as otorhinolaryngology)
- plastic surgery (skin and bone building)
- pediatric surgery (children)
- trauma and orthopedic surgery (bones and joints)
- urology (urinary).
In the operating room, surgeons visit their patients before the operation. They check that the incision marks are in the right place and answer any last minute questions.
Surgeons perform their operations in the operating room, which is kept very clean and sterile. They perform a series of routine minor operations or focus on one or two major operations, which can take hours.
While they are operating, they can teach surgical techniques and procedures to other doctors.
Surgeons work as a team with anesthetists, perfusionists (who monitor life support equipment), and professionals in the operations department (whose role includes providing the surgeon with instruments and equipment).
They also help direct the care of the patient after the operation.
At the consultation, surgeons decide whether the cases referred by the GPs are urgent or routine. They make appointments with the patients and take care of the paperwork. They also attend committee meetings to discuss personnel and resource issues.
Surgeons spend time researching to keep up with new surgical technologies. They can publish articles in medical journals, and some surgeons give lectures to healthcare professionals.
They work long hours and are on duty for some time. When they are on duty, they may have to perform emergency operations.