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Transplant Surgeon Job Description, Career as a Transplant Surgeon, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training Doctorate degree and board certification

Average Salary $443,000 per year

Job Outlook Very good

Basic Job Description

Transplant surgeons are medical surgeons that specialize in organ transplants in patients. They can perform surgeries to transplant a heart, liver, kidney, or even parts of the brain to a patient who is suffering terminal illness from a defective or damaged organ. Most transplant surgeons specialize in transplants of a specific organ and only perform those surgeries, but almost all transplant surgeons work in various fields of transplants before deciding on one specific field to practice.

Education and Training Requirements

To become a transplant surgeon, students will obtain a Doctorate degree in medical science with a focus on transplant surgery. This involves 4 years of undergraduate training as well as 4 years in a medical graduate program.
Students studying to become doctors and surgeons work as resident surgeons in a hospital as part of their training before graduation. Once a student works as a resident in a transplant surgery center, they will be required to take a state board certification that will license them to practice medicine as a transplant surgeon.

Training for a transplant surgeon includes determining what qualifications an organ needs in order to be a successful transplant candidate. Transplant surgeons need to know corresponding blood types, nerve connections, and components of vital organs that affect other organs. Transplant surgeons will learn specific techniques in fusing organs together and making them a part of the body.

Getting the Job

A transplant surgeon must be able to work independently and conduct a surgery on their own from start to finish. The surgeon will determine exactly what needs to be done to a patient and decide just how much help they need in the operating room. They will choose staff to work with them on each surgery as nurses or assistants, as well as caring for the patient after surgery.

Surgeons will need to understand the proper sanitation and sterilization procedures before, during and after surgery, as well as be able to handle the sometimes unpleasant smells or sights that come with cutting someone open, removing organs and replacing them.

Transplant surgeons must be able to handle extremely stressful and high pressures situations, as surgeries can sometimes spiral out of control relatively quickly or the patient may respond negatively. The surgeon must be able to think quickly and keep all situations under control. They must also possess manual dexterity to multitask yet concentrate just as hard on each specific job being done.

Someone who intends to work as a transplant surgeon must also be continually up to date on new technological advancements and medical procedures being brought into the surgery room. Many states require surgeons of all types to renew their license every few years so they will stay up to date on any advancements and new findings.

Job Prospects, Employment Outlook and Career Development

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for surgeons of all kinds, including transplant, is expected to grow significantly over the next 10 years. Many surgeons are reaching the age of retirement and will need to be replaced, so more and more positions are opening up for availability. More jobs are also becoming available due to the need for surgeons in low-income or rural areas, as they often have a hard time finding surgeons willing to work in these locations. The increase in elderly population also create a large need for surgeons, particularly now that the baby boomer generation is getting older. All of these factors make job prospects for transplant surgeons very good and likely to keep getting better.

Many surgeons will advance their careers by joining a group practice with surgeons in related fields, or by opening a practice of their own. Some may even become professors after working in the field for a number of years, and assist surgery students to teach them how work is done in the surgery room. The career of a surgeon depends on the positive reputation they can maintain with patients and fellow employees.

Working Conditions and Environment

Most surgeons work in a hospital setting or in a private clinic. The environment is fast-paced and high-stress, so it is important for surgeons to be able to continue performing surgeries and taking care of patients even if they are overwhelmed. Surgeons, particularly those working in transplants, typically have several assistants available in case there is an abundance of emergency surgery patients.

Surgeons must also be able to handle the intense surgery environment. Surgery often comes with unpleasant smells or sights, and a surgeon must be able to continue working regardless of what the person looks like or what happens once they are cut open. Some people may respond negatively to surgery and bleed excessively, so a surgeon will need to be able to quickly fix any issues without being bothered. They must look at bodies not in a physical and emotional way, but as if they are a piece of work that needs to be mastered and fixed.

Many surgeons work long or odd hours, particularly those in the transplant field. Surgeries working on vital organs such as the heart can sometimes take an entire day, so surgeons must be able to continually work without the possibility of stopping to go to the bathroom or take a lunch break. Surgery often does not allow for these breaks, and it often requires surgeons to work through the night or stay on-call to make sure a patient does not suffer from any severe after effects.

Salary and Benefits

Salaries for transplant surgeons, or any type of surgeon, are among the highest of any occupation. The average salary for a transplant surgeon is about $440,000 per year. Self-employed surgeons working in their own practice often make more than a surgeon working for a salary at a hospital. However, surgeons working for a hospital will automatically receive health insurance as well as vacation time from their employer, while most self-employed surgeons will have to provide and pay for these benefits themselves.

Where to Go for More Information

American Society of Transplant Surgeons
2461 South Clark Street, Suite 640
Arlington, VA 22202
(703) 414-7870

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Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesHealth & Medicine