Surgeons are doctors that treat patients' internal health. To correct injuries or treat diseases, surgeons use different instruments to access and mend wounds and diseases. Surgeons usually specialize in a field of medicine and work to help diagnose and treat patients based on their specific illnesses. They also perform corrective operations and track the healing process. In addition to earning a degree in medicine, surgeons must complete a residency program, which usually takes around seven or eight years, and become nationally licensed to practice legally within the U.S.
Just earning a medical degree is not enough to perform plastic surgery. The rigorous standards that are established that are described in the previous question to train residents provides core competency in all aspects of surgery.
Dr. Steven WallachAesthetic Section Editor for the Plastic Surgery Educational Network of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons
Getting Surgeon Licensure and Certification
It is illegal to practice medicine in the U.S. without proper licensure. To qualify for licensure, individuals must graduate from an accredited medical school and then complete a residency, during which their instruction in medicine will move from general to specific. Residencies provide hands-on job training and eventually lead to a specialization within the field.
"Just earning a medical degree is not enough to perform plastic surgery. The rigorous standards that are established that are described in the previous question to train residents provides core competency in all aspects of surgery," said Dr. Steven Wallach, the Aesthetic Section editor for the Plastic Surgery Educational Network of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). "Program training includes significant didactic education, as well as hands-on experience with office-based and hospital-based patient care."
The official national licensing exam is the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). However, some states may have their own licensing requirements that surgeons must meet. These requirements include additional examinations, lengthier residencies, and limits on the number of states in which surgeons can practice. To practice, both national and state requirements must be met by the surgeon. "Being licensed proves you have the educational level that you claim to have," said Dr. Al Aly, the chief editor of the Plastic Surgery Education Network and a professor of surgery at the University of California Irvine. "It prevents unqualified people from practicing medicine."
Though the residency is mandatory for all surgeons seeking licensure, there are other important qualification as well. Prospective surgeons must have good bedside manners and must also show a willingness to stay on top of medical advances. Technology and medicine are constantly evolving fields, so after a year or two of practice, surgeons are retested for competency and knowledge to maintain their licenses.
Surgeons also have the option to become Board Certified, which is an additional step after licensure. According to Wallach, board certification "sets the highest standard for competency which includes a rigorous written exam as well as an oral exam."
Maintaining Surgeon Licensure and Certification
Due to the continually changing nature of medicine the medical technology involved with diagnostics and treatment, it is important for surgeons to stay educated on emerging trends. To remain nationally licensed, surgeons must take continuing education courses, even after earning their initial licensure. These are regulated by the state in which surgeons practice. "Continuing education is critical to maintain competency in surgery," said Wallach.
Continuing medical education in every state is going toward online education out of convenience and flexibility.
Dr. Al AlyChief Editor of the Plastic Surgery Education Network
In addition to fulfilling continuing education requirements for licensure, surgeons who hold board certifications must also keep up to date. For plastic surgeons, at least 150 hours of continuing medical education over a three-year period must be fulfilled, according to Wallach. "In addition, recertification of your board certificate requires a 10-year Maintenance of Certification process, which requires certain core competencies in the various categories of plastic surgery," he said.
There are multiple ways for surgeons to fulfill these continuing education courses. Many hospitals provide opportunities to their faculty. For surgeons in private practices or with difficult schedules, online education is also a good opinion. Many schools provide continuing education courses on the Internet to allow surgeons to maintain their licenses without interrupting their practice.
"Continuing medical education in every state is going toward online education out of convenience and flexibility," said Aly. "Traditionally, you'd have to go to a meeting, which cost you financially by having to take time away from work and travel to the meeting. Online continuing education allows you to avoid these issues."
In keeping up with the demand for online education, some associations have even taken the initiative to offer continuing education courses over the Internet. "ASPS has taken a proactive stance by establishing online tools to provide this education," said Wallach. "The Plastic Surgery Educational Network is one such tool that allows members to not only stay current on new topics, but also allows for CME credit to be obtained through this portal. I think online education is the wave of the future and our society. It is truly amazing!"