Orthopedic Surgeon 101

I can’t tell you how many times I get asked the following questions about Mr. Dr. (who as a refresher is studying to be an orthopedic surgeon).  How many years does he have left?  When is he really a doctor?  How many years is residency?  When does he pick his specialty?  What is he specializing in? How many surgeries has he done?  Does he like it?  This list goes on and the same questions get asked over and over and over again.  I get it.  It’s a lot to remember.  It’s funny though because a year will go by and I will be happy that we are a year closer to the end but when I tell people how many years he has left their response is always, “Really??? I thought for sure by now he would be done.”  Newsflash people, becoming a surgeon of any kind is a LONG freaking road.  They work hard to be a master at their craft and let me tell ya, it’s a damn good thing because the surgeries that these orthopedic guys do is no joke.  Trust me, you want that guy operating on you to have YEARS of experience because let’s face it, they are cutting you open and playing inside of your body.  Haha.  Playing.  I guess maybe for them it is like playtime because it’s fun for them.  After all, they chose this insane, grueling….sorry I meant….well-respected and prestigious profession.  You want a surgeon who enjoys finagling those bones and muscles in your body because those are the surgeons that are going to make you walk again, stand up straight for the first time, get you back on the field and relieve your pain.  And when you think about it, it’s kind of crazy that you sit there unconscious for hours on a table while they stand over and “fix” you.  For a lot of the more minor surgeries, these surgeons can probably do it in their sleep it becomes so methodical.  But don’t worry, even though doctors get pretty tired, I’m sure no one has ever reallllllllly done a surgery in their sleep ;)  Let’s hope not anyway.  But the point I’m trying to make is that in order for them to become such great surgeons it’s necessary to go through the long, aggravating, all consuming….sorry I meant….many glorious years of training.

Anyway, I wanted to give a basic 101 crash course.  Hopefully this answers a lot of easy questions people have about the road to becoming an orthopedic surgeon.

Definition of Orthopedic Surgery

The branch of surgery that deals with the correction of injuries or disorders of the skeletal system and associated muscles, joints, and ligaments. -courtesy of dictionary.com

Standard Process: 10 Yrs Minimum

4 years of medical school (you are officially a doctor when you graduate. Yes I know, it’s not rocket science but you have no idea how many times I have been asked about when and if he is a Dr. yet)

  • 3rdish year – choose a specialty for a residency program
  • 4th year – apply to residency programs and (hopefully) match to program of your choice (can add 1 extra year of research to help boost resume)

5 years of residency (some hospitals nowadays have a 6 year program for orthopedic surgery)

  • 3rdish year – choose an orthopedic specialty to focus on
  • 4th year – apply to fellowship programs and (hopefully) match to program of your choice

1 year of fellowship (can do 2 years of a fellowship and specialize in 2 different areas)

  • Upon completion – work for a private practice, hospital, etc.
  • Also upon completion – FINALLY GET A REAL PAYCHECK and if I’m lucky I may just get my husband back.

The above process is estimated and as you can see 10 years is really the minimum commitment to becoming an orthopedic surgeon.  Add in 1 extra year of research in between medical school and residency to help get into a better program, 1 extra year if the program is 6 yrs instead of the standard 5, and 1 extra year of an additional fellowship = potential for 13+ years of commitment before even becoming an attending physician.  Personally, writing all of this out makes me want to go run to my bottle of greygoose in the fridge but I will refrain.  Bottom line: I guess after 10-13 years of education and training, people should feel confident in his/her orthopedic surgeon.

Check out the Appendix page I added to the blog – it should help clear up any confusion with the terminology I use in my writing.  Hint: I like to abbreviate everything and lucky for me, the hospital likes abbreviated terminology too.  That’s what glossaries are for.

So hopefully now that you know the process you understand what me and Mr. Dr. have been through together and what we still have to come with him being a current 2nd year resident.  Let’s just say I am happy he is in a 5 year program and if I have anything to say about it, he will be doing a 1 year only fellowship program for his orthopedic specialty.  This would put him on the 10 year plan.  Let’s hope it stays that way!

7 thoughts on “Orthopedic Surgeon 101

  1. Love that you cleared up all those questions ;) I’m sure it won’t stop anyone from asking again because they love to talk to you :) XXX000 Miss you!

  2. I’m currently relocating with my boyfriend (of almost 8 yrs) to South Jersey for his ortho residency (his 1st year). I will be reading your blog for additional tips along the way. I think I’ve been dealing with it all really well however, I can use all the help and cocktail recipes I can get ;)

  3. The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it won’t fail me as much as this one. After all, I know it was my choice to read through, but I actually thought you would have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of complaining about something that you could fix if you weren’t too busy seeking attention.

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