Something I have always wanted to be is a cardiac surgeon. This is a specialized branch of medicine dedicated to treating the human heart. Doctors who are cardiac surgeons spend their days meeting with patients, looking over patient charts, learning more about their field, and, of course, performing many types of surgeries on people’s hearts. The types of surgeries they perform include heart by-pass surgery, heart transplants, heart valve replacements, and treatment or repairs of congenital heart conditions (“Cardiac Surgeons” 2015).
They can work on patients at many ages, from newborns to ancient. Usually, surgeons do not spend every day in surgery. Instead, they schedule one or two days a week for surgeries as needed and use the rest of the week to know their patients and to stay up with the latest practices and procedures. Meeting with patients can mean meeting with patients before surgeries or for follow-ups after surgeries have been completed and it can also mean getting familiar with a patient’s case through studying their medical files before meeting the patient for the first time. There’s also a lot of study involved in the job in the form of continuing education since there is always new science happening and cardiac surgeons need to know all the newest options so that they can give their patients the best possible treatment for that patient.
As the job description suggests, there is a lot of education involved in becoming a cardiac surgeon. In the United States, most cardiac surgeons are also thoracic surgeons, which means they also work on the lungs and everything else inside the chest area. To get the chance to practice on your own, cardiac surgeons need to start with a 4-year premedical degree then go on to a 4-year medical school, then serve for 5 years in a general surgery residency and finally, serve for 2 years in a cardiothoracic surgery residency (Scheepers, 2015). Most students also decide to do another fellowship or two before launching out on their own. When you do the math, it is at least 8 years of formal education and another 7 years in residency programs for a total of 15 years minimum before you’re ready to open your own practice. Attending Greenwood Tech is not going to accomplish this goal for me, but my plan is to get good grades working on an associate’s degree and then transfer to a premed program once I can qualify.
With the population aging every day, the job opportunities for cardiothoracic surgeons is only growing. The big population group known as the baby boomers are getting to the ages where they need this kind of surgery more often, especially since so many of them have lived mostly sedentary lives and are increasingly overweight, both conditions that contribute to unhealthy hearts. Although the field is highly competitive, there will always be a need for surgeons in this field. Even when there is low need for this specialty, cardiothoracic surgeons are qualified to work in other areas of medicine, too, so there will always be a job available. However, it will always be preferred to get the job as a cardiac surgeon instead of a cardiologist (a non-surgical specialty treating heart conditions).
This is because cardiologists can start with a salary of $272,000, which is pretty good, but cardiac surgeons can earn more than $360,000 to start (Decker, 2015). This difference in pay is likely going to make a big difference by the time I’m finished with paying for medical school. After six years of experience, that salary can go as high as $523,000, which is about the highest salary someone can achieve in medicine.