Career Route to Becoming a Surgeon

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Surgery is one of the most sought after and rewarding careers in medicine. Surgery is well-paid, has a high level of job security and provides a challenging and rewarding career. The career route to becoming a surgeon can take many years and requires a high level of commitment and dedication. Surgeons specialise in operations and surgery can often involve long and complex procedures requiring high levels of skill. As surgery is continually changing, surgeons need to constantly learn new skills throughout their careers and need skilful and dexterous hands. In the UK, the Royal College of Surgeons oversees training and development of surgeons, and while overseas surgeons often work within the NHS, they must first register with the General Medical Council and prove that their qualifications and experience are appropriate for working as a UK surgeon.

Observing surgery on a Gap Medics Medical Work Experience placement in Tanzania Becoming a surgeon takes many years of study and practice. All surgeons must first qualify as doctors so need to attend medical school to gain a basic medical degree. This normally takes 5-6 years and students learn all the basic knowledge required for different branches of medicine, including surgery. After medical school, a would-be surgeon needs to conduct at least 2 years of foundation training. This is usually a paid position at a hospital or other medical facility where they work alongside qualified doctors and surgeons who assist in the trainee surgeon’s development.

After completing their foundation training, trainee surgeons do several years of further training centred on surgical procedures. During this time, the trainee surgeon learns a broad range of skills and techniques and is introduced to the different specialities of surgery. This core surgical training takes around 2 years and is usually a paid position conducted at a hospital. The trainee works under a senior surgeon who guides and mentors them. A lot of the work involves assisting in operations and carrying out surgical procedures under supervision. After the core training, the trainee surgeon needs then to choose a speciality which. There are a wide variety of different categories of surgery such as heart surgery, general surgery and brain surgery.

The final stage to becoming a surgeon involves training in a chosen speciality. This normally takes the form of paid training in a hospital setting and takes up to 6 years. The trainee surgeon works alongside a senior consultant surgeon trained in the speciality. The trainee surgeon will perform surgery alongside this consultant, learning all the aspects to the specific field of surgery. Once complete, the surgeon becomes fully qualified and earns a Certificate of Completion of Specialist Training (CCST) and becomes a fellow of one the Royal College of Surgeons. Surgeons adopt the letters FRCS after their name, indicating their qualification. A newly-qualified surgeon can then apply for a senior surgical apportionment at a hospital. Some surgeons continue with their training, specialising in additional areas, but most continue to work in surgery throughout this training.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training. 

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