How to Become an Orthopedic Surgeon?
Orthopedic surgeons treat problems affecting our musculoskeletal system. They are trained to be physicians and surgeons.
They are responsible for diagnosing, treating and preventing problems associated with the muscles and bones.
Orthopedic surgeons need to undergo intense training and certification to practice their skills in patient-care settings.
What is an Orthopedic Surgeon?
Orthopedic surgeons study injuries and diseases that affect the musculoskeletal system. This includes learning about bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves.
These professionals know how to treat various muscular and skeletal problems. For instance, orthopedic surgeons know how to treat birth defects, such as scoliosis.
They can treat injuries to the bone, such as fractures and broken hips. They can also treat degenerative disorders, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, etc.
Orthopedic surgeons use therapies and treatments to help patients. They are trained to discover the root cause of problems.
They can restore movement in limbs and provide a better quality of living.
On an average day, orthopedic surgeons may be required to correct bone deformities using surgical treatment.
They can prescribe medications, surgical and non-surgical treatments and even advise rehabilitative physiotherapy when required.
What does an Orthopedic Surgeon do?
An orthopedic surgeon provides surgical and non-surgical treatment to patients. They work to alleviate pain or restrict degeneration.
Orthopedic surgeons focus on the musculoskeletal system. This is a complex network of bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves.
The musculoskeletal system is essential for normal movement and motion.
The responsibilities of an orthopedic surgeon may include:
- Patient consulting
- Patient Education
- Advising and interpreting diagnostic tests, such as X-ray or MRI tests
- Performing surgical operations to diagnose or treat skeletal problems
- Prescribing medication or advising post-surgical rehabilitation
- Accounting for viral or bacterial infection
- Addressing genetic disorders
- Completing and keeping accurate patient records
- Being on call to respond to medical emergencies, such as trauma or accident
What are the requirements to become an Orthopedic Surgeon?
Usually, it takes around 14 years to fulfill the requirements to become a certified orthopedic surgeon. The study of the musculoskeletal system is vast.
Potential orthopedic surgeons need to maintain high test scores good GPA rankings and get glowing letters of recommendation.
The usual path to becoming a board-certified orthopedic surgeon involves:
- Earning a bachelor’s degree
- Passing the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test)
- Completing medical school to earn either M.D. or D.O. degree
- Completing residency
- Enrolling in fellowship
- Earning national and/or state license
- Getting certification from the relevant medical board
These are the seven steps to becoming a certified, practicing orthopedic surgeon in the US. Let’s take a closer look at these points.
1 – Earning a bachelor’s degree
The first step is to earn a bachelor’s degree in science from an accredited university. During this, you will ideally learn general chemistry, biology, organic chemistry, physics, English and mathematics. You can also take pre-med classes. Or, you can apply for internships for science-centric electives.
Normally, it takes around 4 years to earn a bachelor’s degree.
2 – Passing the MCAT
After acquiring a bachelor’s degree, you will need to sit for a 7-hour test to prove you are eligible for medical school. The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) involves multiple sections.
If your overall score is between 472 and 528, then you pass this entrance exam. If you want to become an orthopedic surgeon, make sure to score as high as possible.
To prepare for the MCAT, you should brush up on the following subjects or topics:
- Physical Sciences
- Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior
3 – Completing medical school
After successfully passing the MCAT, you will have to apply for enrollment in a medical school. During the four years of medical school, you will get to study the following subjects:
During the clinical rotations, you will get a hands-on learning experience on the following topics:
- Obstetrics and Gynecology
4 – Completing residency
After acquiring your medical degree, you will need to spend the next five years at a medical residency for orthopedics.
During the first two years, you will learn everything about general surgery. In the final years of residency, you will be taught advanced orthopedic procedures.
During residency, you will get to work under the direct supervision of expert and skilled physicians. This helps to gain the confidence and skills required to become a professional orthopedic surgeon.
5 – Enrolling in fellowship
Following your residency, you will need to enroll in a fellowship. This period is meant for in-depth study of a particular body part. This is also the opportunity to choose your sub-specialty under orthopedics.
A fellowship usually takes 1 to 2 years to complete. During this, potential orthopedic surgeons learn about:
- Pediatric orthopedics
- Orthopedic oncology
- Surgical sports medicine
- Reconstructive surgery
- Hand, ankle, foot and spine surgery
6 – Earning a license to practice
Once you’ve completed your fellowship training you will need to pass the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) to practice orthopedic medicine within the US.
Keep in mind that licensing requirements vary from state to state. So, make sure to learn all the requirements prescribed by your state of residence before applying for the license.
7 – Getting board certification
Once you get your license to practice you are eligible to practice orthopedic medicine within the specified state. However, you can also choose to get board-certified to gain more trust from patients.
Board-certified orthopedic surgeons are considered to be competent and knowledgeable by a jury of their peers.
Once you get board certification, you can either apply to work in a hospital or you can choose to establish a private orthopedic practice.
Orthopedic surgeons are incredibly valuable to society. They are essential to diagnose, treat and prevent disorders and injuries affecting your bones and muscles.
A successful orthopedic surgeon’s salary annual income can be as high as US$ 510,000.
Make sure to choose only a reputed and reliable medical school.
You should also take care to enroll in residency and fellowship at hospitals and clinics where you can get maximum exposure to active patient care.
I am a dedicated healthcare researcher and an enthusiast specializing in medical grants, medical education and research. Through my articles, I aim to empower healthcare professionals and researchers with valuable insights and resources to navigate these critical aspects effectively.