What Is Required for a Career in Surgical Critical Care?

Critical care surgeons work in intensive care units to help people with life-threatening injuries, diseases, or other conditions. This article explains what's required for a career in surgical critical care, including what it takes to become certified as a critical care surgeon. Schools offering Surgical Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Surgical critical care is a specialized field of surgery dealing particularly with the critically ill, whether they suffer from trauma, disease, or other issues. Critically ill people may have many different medical concerns and may be of any age, requiring wide versatility from critical care surgeons and their training. According to the Society of Critical Care Medicine, typical critical care issues can span a range that includes:

  • Cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks
  • Postoperative management
  • Sepsis
  • Shock from trauma
  • Respiratory distress

Important Facts about this Occupation

Median Pay (2018)$208,000 (for all surgeons)
Job Outlook13% job growth expected between 2016-2026 for all surgeons and physicians
Key SkillsGood at communicating, compassionate, pays attention to detail, works well with hands, has leadership skills, is organized and patient, able to problem solve, able to stand for long periods of time
Similar OccupationsGeneral Surgeons, Family and General Physicians, Dentists, Chiropractors, Optometrists, Podiatrists, Veterinarians, Anesthesiologist, Psychiatrist

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Basic Qualifications

At the most basic level, becoming a critical care surgeon has the same requirements as any other physician or surgeon career: several years of medical school culminating in licensure by the state in which you're choosing to practice. Many employers expect and seek further certification among applicants for specialty positions in surgical critical care.

ABS Certification

The American Board of Surgery (www.absurgery.org) offers a surgical critical care certification demonstrating competency in critical care beyond the level that is expected of every surgeon. Eligibility to sit for the examination requires current certification in general surgery by the ABS, a current medical license, completion of a post-graduate program in surgical critical care, and a report on 50 patients whom you've cared for. The examination covers neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory physiology, trauma, pediatric concerns, and infectious disease. Once certified in surgical critical care, the surgeon must maintain certification via continuing education, professional evaluation, and other criteria.

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