Urology is well-suited to women. The field has fewer emergencies than other surgical specialties, so the hours are more predictable and it's easier to strike a work-life balance. That may be why more women have entered the practice. The United States had only 22 female urologists in the mid-1980s, according to an article in The New York Times. By 2008, the Society of Women Urologists had more than 300 women, and women made up an estimated 20 percent of urologists in training. Regardless of gender, urologists have the same basic responsibilities, which revolve around treating infertility, incontinence, kidney stones, prostate cancer and other genitourinary conditions.
One of a urologist's responsibilities is diagnosing patients. She reviews the patient’s history and interviews him about symptoms, then physically examines the patient and orders tests, such as prostate screenings or urinalysis, to look for cancer, infection or other conditions. The urologist might also order X-rays and scopes that take pictures of internal organs. If she suspects bladder cancer, the urologist uses a small medical telescope to look inside the sac. She combines patient history and exam and test results to diagnose urological conditions.
Surgery is another key responsibility of the urologist. She operates in the abdomen and pelvis on organs such as kidneys and the bladder. In cases of advanced or invasive bladder cancer, the urologist removes the sac and surrounding reproductive organs, and creates a new urinary tract from parts of the patient’s intestine. For more precision, some urologists use robotic-assistance surgical equipment to treat cancers, remove prostates or fix kidney blockages.
The urologist doesn’t just perform surgeries. She also has the power to prescribe antibiotics, antiseptic medications or compresses for injuries. To break up kidney stones, the urologist might use shock waves or lasers. To treat cancer, she sometimes inserts tubes that deliver radium directly to tumors. The urologist also counsels patients in lifestyle modification, such as helping them quit smoking to reduce the risk of bladder cancer.
Working with other medical professionals is an important responsibility of any doctor, including urologists. Especially with complicated conditions, the urologist collaborates with other urologists, oncologists and radiation therapists to determine and coordinate treatment. She also provides urology consultation to other doctors and directs nurses, residents and other staff to provide care.
A urologist’s responsibilities vary based on subspecialty. Specialty areas include pediatric urology, urologic cancer, kidney transplants, infertility, kidney stones, female urology or neurourology. Some urologists concentrate on repairing congenital conditions, such as an absence of the testes or genital ambiguity. Trauma urologists reconstruct the lower urinary tract after accident or injury. For many urologists, treatment of kidney stones makes up a significant share of the workload, though end-stage renal disease is an increasingly common subspecialty as the number of patients on dialysis surges.
Urologists need extensive training beyond medical school. The American Board of Urology requires at least five years of residency in the field, including a year in general surgery and three years in clinical urology. Urologists also must pass written and oral exams. In addition, the board mandates an unrestricted state license to practice medicine and requires candidates to keep practice logs and undergo peer review.
- O*Net Online: Summary Report for Urologists
- University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health: What Is Urology?
- Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine: What Is Urology?
- Pacific Medical Centers: Urology
- Urology Associates of North Texas: Patients Find Comfort in Women Urologists
- The New York Times: Urology Field Slowly Altered, by Women