On the Job
Surgeons perform surgery to diagnose and treat patients.
Modern surgery has come a long way from its roots. As many as 5,000 years ago, surgery was performed, including plastic surgery. However, most of these surgeries were a form of trepanation, which involved drilling holes in someone's skull in order to relieve pressure or treat wounds received in battle. As gruesome as this sounds, most people who underwent trepanation survived and lived quite well.Surgery is used to remove or repair damage to the body from injury or disease. For example, surgeons repair organs, blood vessels, and other parts of the body. Sometimes they perform operations to determine the location and extent of disorders such as cancer. Surgeons who work in emergency rooms treat people who are seriously injured in accidents. Cosmetic surgeons perform surgery on patients to change their appearance.
Surgeons meet with patients before the surgery is performed. They ask patients questions to learn more about their medical history. They also examine patients and order lab tests. In addition, they consult with patients' other health care providers. Once test results are back, surgeons explain them to patients. They also explain the procedures they will use during surgery and answer patients' questions. If more than one treatment option is available, they help patients decide which option to choose. Surgeons who work in emergency rooms are rarely able to gather this much information about patients.
In the operating room, surgeons work with teams of people that include nurses, anesthesiologists, and surgical technicians. Surgeons assign tasks to team members. They also make sure everything is sterile and all safety precautions are followed. After the operation, surgeons make sure patients receive proper care. They check in with patients to see how they are responding to surgery. Surgeons keep detailed records on patients. They often write reports for insurance companies.
Surgeons must stay current on advances in medicine. Lasers and computer technology have changed the way many operations are performed. Surgeons learn new skills by working with other surgeons and taking classes. Some surgeons conduct research and write articles for journals. Others develop new techniques and teach them to other surgeons. Surgeons may also teach or supervise medical students.
Most surgeons specialize in one area of the body or one type of disorder. Orthopedic surgeons repair bone and joint injuries and disorders. Neurosurgeons treat disorders of the spinal cord and brain. Thoracic surgeons treat the heart, lungs, and vessels in the chest.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Meet with patients to gather background information. Analyze medical history, allergies, and general condition.
- Examine patients to find the location of the health problem.
- Order lab tests to help make a diagnosis.
- Refer patients to other health care professionals as needed.
- Recommend surgical procedures to patients.
- Make sure operating room and equipment are sterile.
- Operate on patients.
- Assign tasks to members of the operating team.
- Monitor patients' health after surgery.
- Keep detailed records on patients.
- Write reports for insurance companies.
- May do research and write articles for journals.
- May teach in medical schools.
- Take classes to update skills.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Assist and care for others.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Document and record information.
- Analyze data or information.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Work with the public.
- Process information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Provide advice and consultation with others.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Think creatively.
- Teach others.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Are substantially responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Have a high level of social contact. They work with patients and other health care workers on a daily basis.
- May sometimes be placed in conflict situations in which patients and their family members may be emotional or difficult.
- Are responsible for the work done by members of the operating room team.
- Communicate daily by phone, letters, memos, and in person. They use e-mail, but less frequently.
- Usually work as part of a team of medical professionals.
- Always work indoors.
- Often wear a special uniform, such as a lab coat or surgical scrubs.
- Often wear protective or safety attire, such as gloves and masks.
- Are exposed to infection and diseases from contact with patients on a daily basis.
- Work very near others. They must come into close physical contact with patients during procedures.
- Are exposed to radiation and contaminants on a weekly basis.
- Must be very exact in their work and be sure all details are complete. Errors or omissions could seriously endanger the health and safety of patients.
- May repeat the same physical and mental tasks.
- Make decisions on a daily basis that substantially impact patients and their families.
- Make nearly all their decisions and set their daily tasks and goals independently.
- Work in a competitive, stressful atmosphere where they must meet daily deadlines.
- Usually work at least 40 hours per week.
- May be on-call for emergencies.
- May work nights or weekends if an emergency room surgeon.
- May have an unpredictable schedule if an emergency room surgeon.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to examine patients and handle surgical equipment.
- Stand for long periods during surgery.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble very small objects.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.