I have worked as a fully certified general surgeon for the past six years. I was in residency for three years before that doing similar work, however. As the name implies, I perform general surgeries in a hospital. I handle routine operations of varying natures. I also sometimes perform emergency surgery or assist specialized surgeons on complicated operations. This work is very satisfying, but sometimes difficult. While routine operations are my daily work, things always can go wrong. I have to maintain very intense focus for long periods of time. Considering this, I would rate my job satisfaction as somewhere between seven and eight on a scale of one to ten. My satisfaction is a little weaker on days where I have twelve hour shifts or have many difficult operations to perform. It also wanes some if an operation does not succeed.
There is no doubt, however, that this job is exactly what I want to do. I help keep people healthy and, not to exaggerate, occasionally save lives. This is extremely rewarding. It helps provide motivation when things are rough at work.
Pretty strange things occur during any kind of work in the medical profession, especially surgery. One of the most common things that give me a bit of shock is the rare case when someone has a previously unknown condition that results in some anatomical difference from the normal human. In other words, you may go to operate and find that an organ or other body part is located somewhere other than expected. It takes a little adjusting, needless to say.
The strangest thing I can think of is when a patient reported abdominal pain and an x-ray demonstrated that a previous surgeon had left an instrument inside while sewing up. I was able to remove this easily enough, but it was still incredibly bizarre.
While I absolutely love my job, there is no denying that it is incredibly stressful on several levels. When long shifts are required, it is physically stressful. Many hours on your feet spent performing delicate tasks that could kill someone is very distressing. On top of this, there is often extra shifts, lots of paperwork, or other tasks required of a doctor in a hospital setting. Sometimes I give demonstrations for interns or residents, or prepare lectures. Fortunately, I am gaining seniority and do not have to work as many hours as I used to. I now average somewhere around 45 hours a week, which is a huge improvement. In addition to higher pay and more vacation time, the stress levels are decreasing and I am allowed a better balance with my work and my personal life.
Someone with my experience and in my position will make around $200,000 or more. This is a very comfortable living, but it comes after many years of debt and lower pay due to medical school and residencies. In addition to this salary, I have generous benefits with six weeks of paid vacation time. This is probably one of the better perks.
Getting into this field is very, very difficult. To begin with, you need an undergraduate degree that will get you into medical school. There is no set major, but most successful applicants choose chemistry or biology, or at the very least have had many chemistry and biology courses. Regardless, it is very competitive to get into. You will need excellent grades, test scores, and lots of extracurricular activities in order to compete. From here you attend four years of medical school. The first two years are mainly graduate level courses in biochemistry, medicine, and other topics. It's taught mainly out of the book, though there are demonstrations and lab work. The last two years involve more hands on work, like rotations through the various subfields of medicine, like internal, surgery, psychiatry, and several others.
After these four grueling years of medical school, you finally have a chance to make some money and take the first step towards becoming a full doctor. You work internships at hospitals in your chosen field. For instance, I had a two-year internship as a general surgeon intern in another hospital. I learned from surgeons and other doctors there, assisting them in their work and eventually taking over my own surgeries. From there I became a resident, which has more responsibilities and more pay. This residency lasted three years. I took on more specialized surgeries, attended lectures, and finally earned certification as a general surgeon after years of schooling and training.
This path is not for the faint of heart, but it is extremely rewarding for those that choose to make it.
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