It is necessary to have completed medical school in order to pursue a career as a trauma surgeon. Following medical school, those interested in trauma surgery should complete a general surgery residency before pursuing a trauma surgery fellowship.
It is rare to find a surgical residency program dedicated solely to trauma. Prospective trauma surgeons normally complete a residency in general surgery in addition to fellowship training in trauma or surgical critical care.
|Required Education||Completion of medical school|
|Required Experience||Prior surgical coursework|
|Other Requirements||USMLE Step 1 and possibly Step 2 scores|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||14% (for all physicians and surgeons)|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$187,200 or more for all physicians and surgeons; mean salary of $247,520 for surgeons|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
General Surgery Residency Programs
General surgery residency programs are 5-year programs that prepare residents for a wide range of surgery experiences, as well as, for a career in community surgical practice, research, academic surgery or post-residency fellowship training. In addition to their training, residents perform surgical specialty services at a variety of local hospitals.
During the general surgery residency program, residents are exposed to a variety of specialty departments within general surgery such as trauma surgery. Other areas include surgical oncology, emergency medicine, neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, pediatric surgery, plastic surgery and cardiovascular surgery. These programs focus on major operative experiences such as cardiothoracic surgery, gastroenterology, vascular surgery, pediatric surgery, surgical oncology, breast surgery, trauma surgery and transplant surgery.
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Trauma Surgery Fellowships
Trauma surgery fellowships are often highly competitive and should be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). They typically provide fellows with proficiency in managing all aspects of critically ill surgical patients and allow fellows to develop the qualifications necessary to supervise surgical critical care units. Fellows receive in-depth training needed to address most injuries to the neck, chest, abdomen and extremities.
Depending on the trauma surgery fellowship, a combination of research and clinical training can be gained. Fellows participate in direct critical care of patients, which sometimes encompasses the pre-hospital, resuscitative and operative, with a heavy emphasis on critical care phases. After completion of the trauma surgery fellowship, a fellow is qualified to pursue a career as a trauma program director or critical care director.
Upon completion of residency in general surgery and a 1-2 year fellowship, one can then sit for the American Board of Surgery (ABS) certifying exam for surgical critical care, since there is no exam specifically for trauma surgery. Once this exam is passed, students will be ready to begin work. Since training and education in this field are so specialized, virtually all students become surgeons. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), demand for physicians and surgeons is predicted to increase in the coming years. As the population grows older, the need for medical services increases, and more healthcare professionals will be required to address these needs.
Trauma surgeons care for patients who have been injured or are in critical care. They are highly trained medical doctors who have completed a residency in surgery and a fellowship in trauma surgery, and have special training that qualifies them to address injuries to the neck, chest, abdomen and extremities.