You might wish for trauma surgeon salary, but you might not want the grueling life and responsibility that comes with it. The trauma surgeon salary varies, of course, with location and years of experience, but most trauma surgeons earn between $300,000 and $400,000 a year, up from about $250,000 in 2012. In 2015 the trauma surgeon salary in the first year after finishing training is usually over $200,000 per year.
And of course, in addition to high trauma surgeon salary, benefits such as health insurance, paid vacation time and sick time, and the all important malpractice insurance are included in the package. The surgeon might even get a signing bonus and moving expenses, because this is a specialty with highly trained individuals who are in short supply.
Who are these highly paid people?
Most of them are male, about 85%. The lifestyle does not appeal to women who want to have a family as well as a career, so females are relatively rare in the field, although their numbers are growing. They are all in their thirties before they can start their careers. Why? In order to become a trauma surgeon, you have to get through four years of college with grades good enough to get into medical school, and that means another four years of studying constantly.
Once you’ve got that M.D., you’re not even close to being finished. A surgical residency is required, usually five years of unremitting work and learning. A residency is a training program that turns new doctors into experts. Most surgeons start their practices after those five years, but trauma surgeons have another two years of training in a critical care fellowship. That’s a total of fifteen years of study and training after high school before the surgeon can begin his career. It’s a long, hard road to travel.
And then, of course, there’s Board Certification and CME (Continuing Medical Education). In order to become Board Certified as a trauma surgeon, the doctor must pass an exam to be certified in surgery first and then another exam in surgical critical care. Once those tests are passed, the surgeon then has to take classes and attend conferences every year thereafter in order to stay current with the latest developments in the field.
The reason that the training and education of these doctors is so rigorous is because they have the responsibility for making rapid decisions about people who have just suffered major injuries, whose lives hang in the balance. The trauma surgeon works in an Emergency Department, usually in a Level I hospital, a hospital that has been designated as a Trauma Center.
Trauma Center hospitals have the staff, equipment and capability of handling anything from motor vehicle accidents to gunshots to terrorist attacks. Any major accident or injuries are sent to this Trauma Center, where there is always a trauma surgeon waiting to handle the casualties, twenty-four hours a day.
When the ambulance rolls in, the trauma surgeon and the trauma team, consisting of highly trained nurses, respiratory technicians, x-ray technicians and clerks who record everything, including the orders, whisk the patient into a room, where a thorough exam is done from scalp to toes and back again. Blood is drawn, x-rays are taken, ivs are started, catheters are placed and the trauma victim is either stabilized or prepared for surgery.
The trauma surgeon is the team leader, organizing the activity and making plans to try to insure the patient’s survival. He or she may want to get into the operating room as quickly as possible or may feel that further testing such as a CT scan or MRI is indicated. That’s where all that training and education comes in – making the decisions that a person’s life depends on.
Life of a Trauma Surgeon
Twelve hour shifts, from 7 to 7, are the norm in emergency departments. So the trauma surgeon starts his day before 7 AM or PM getting report from the surgeon that he or she is relieving. Report consists of information about the patients in the trauma section of the ED that are left over from the previous shift. The surgeon then sees each of those patients to check on them and starts seeing new patients in the ED.
The surgeon may need to make rounds in ICU and the surgical ward, seeing patients who have been admitted to the hospital and who have already had surgery, to check on their progress. Part of the responsibility of rounds may also include teaching residents and medical students.
Other responsibilities during the day may include meetings about planning and protocols, drugs and equipment, staffing and problems. Trauma surgeons often do routine surgeries as well, such as gall bladder removals to keep their skills up.
The end of the day comes when the surgeon is finished which is rarely at 7 AM or PM. Usually there is a surgery to finish, charts to complete, one more x-ray to review, one more family member to talk to. The day may not end until 10 or 11 or later.
The trauma surgeon salary is very good, but the life requires total dedication to the saving of the lives of others. This demanding, exhausting lifestyle is hard on families and relationships and tends to burn out the doctors who choose it. They work very hard for that high trauma surgeon salary.