Orthopedic surgeons repair broken bones, replace damaged joints such as hips and knees and treat damaged muscles and tissues. They work with a diverse patient population and often practice in a group setting. Working as an orthopedic surgeon offers a number of benefits, not the least of which is a hefty paycheck.
Most orthopedic surgeons have regular hours and set schedules, either seeing patients in the office or doing scheduled and unscheduled surgery. Around 50 percent of their time is devoted to non-surgical procedures and medical management of disorders, the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports. Doctors may have to pick up a certain number of weekends and nights on call -- depending on how many doctors are in their practice and their hospital affiliation and policies. Just 7 percent of orthopedic surgery residents are women, according to the AAOS.
Diverse Patient Population
Orthopedic surgeons can care for patients of every age, from babies with skeletal problems to children with broken arms and great-grandparents with hip fractures. Some patients have chronic conditions that require frequent visits; others have their fracture repaired, heal well and never again darken the orthopedic surgeon's door. Some orthopedic surgeons bypass patient care altogether and concentrate on teaching for university medical school programs or on doing research, while others do some of all three.
Orthopedic surgeons can specialize in a number of different areas, depending on their interests and abilities. A smaller woman surgeon might confine her practice to the hands, where strength to manipulate large body parts isn't an issue. Others focus on disorders of the neck and spine, or enjoy working with saws and bone cutters on the largest bones in the body. Others do general orthopedics and see everything from a broken little toe to multiple spinal fractures incurred in a fall off a ladder. Around 32 percent define of orthopedic surgeons themselves as general surgeons, with 37 percent stating that they practice general orthopedics with a specialty interest; 31 percent consider themselves specialists, the AAOS states.
Orthopedic surgeons in clinical practice make a very nice living, around an average of $519,000 per year, according to a 2012 "Forbes" article. Orthopedic surgeons who work in academia make slightly less, around $470,000 per year, the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis reports.
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