How to Become a Trauma Surgeon

November 22

Table of Contents

You can pick from various specialties if you want to work as a surgeon in the medical industry. Trauma surgeons operate on patients with severe physical injuries. 

You can decide whether you wish to pursue a specialty career as a trauma surgeon by learning more about what it takes to be one and the requirements for the position.

In this article, we will discuss how to become a trauma surgeon, go over their duties, and give more details on skills, income expectations, and the career outlook for trauma surgeons.

What is a Trauma Surgeon?

Trauma surgery focuses on treating patients who have sustained physical injuries, frequently in emergencies. 

Not all trauma necessitates surgery, and depending on the nature of the wound, these individuals can also require additional care from neurologists, internal medicine doctors, and other medical professionals. Trauma surgery is most commonly used to treat neck, chest, abdomen, and extremities injuries.

Trauma surgeons must assess a person's condition as soon as possible to decide what kind of operation, if any, is required. 

You visit a trauma surgeon after checking into a hospital's emergency room. If it appears that you could require surgery to address your sickness or accident, they are added to a trauma surgeon's care team.

A trauma surgeon may treat the following conditions: 

Sharp or Penetrating Trauma

Blunt trauma refers to any injury caused by a strong impact. Automobile accidents, slips, falls, or assaults are frequent causes. 

Gunshot wounds, stab wounds, and injuries from farm equipment are all examples of penetrating trauma, an injury caused by an instrument piercing the skin and surrounding tissues.


A trauma surgeon may be required to treat severe burns such as thermal burns, chemical burns, frostbite, and inhalation injury burns. 

Emergency surgery, skin excision, and skin grafting techniques are all possible treatment choices.

Emergency General Surgery Conditions and Acute Care

People occasionally experience unanticipated medical emergencies that necessitate prompt surgical intervention. 

Appendicitis, diverticulitis, cholecystitis, perforated bowel, abdominal abscesses, perforated ulcers, incarcerated hernias, and intestinal blockages can all be treated by trauma surgeons.  

Critical Care Situations in Surgery

Trauma surgeons also do critical surgical care procedures on patients already in the hospital for another surgery or procedure. It includes those who have coagulopathy, sepsis, respiratory failure, or multiple organ failure.

A trauma surgeon will assess your health and decide the best course of treatment as soon as you arrive at the emergency room with any of these severe injuries or diseases. At times, this entails hurrying you into an urgent procedure. 

A trauma surgeon will either stay by your side as you recover after treating your emergency condition or

What are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Trauma Surgeon? 

A trauma surgeon has several responsibilities to ensure the health and well-being of seriously injured patients. 

Here are some examples of specialized job duties for trauma surgeons:

  • Doing a rapid evaluation of a patient's health and vital signs
  • Working on-call schedules where they might be required to report for duty at any time
  • Repairing wounds after surgery is complete and guiding the patient to the recovery area
  • Writing prescriptions for drugs that doctors can give patients before, during, and after surgery
  • Performing reconstructive burn surgery to treat skin and tissue damage brought on by severe burns
  • Interacting with their team during surgery to pass tools, read vital signs, and stop bleeding in patients
  • Guiding patients and their loved ones through available treatments and at-home therapy after hospital release
  • Stabilizing patients with the assistance of their staff to perform diagnostic procedures before doing surgery
  • Discussing how to prepare the operating room with trauma nurses, surgical assistants, and anesthesiologists
  • Placing broken bones in their proper positions and adding rods, metal plates, and nails as necessary to help the bone recover
  • Observing patients after surgery, keeping track of their vital signs, and advising trauma nurses on medication adjustments
  • Receiving updates from trauma staff regarding a patient's status while being transported to the hospital via emergency response teams
  • Meeting the emergency response teams at the entrance to the trauma center to get the most recent data on the patient's vitals and the dosage of the medication the emergency responders have prescribed

What are the Requirements to Become a Trauma Surgeon?

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in pre-medicine, biology, or a closely related scientific field is the first step in becoming a trauma surgeon. Students who want to go to medical school should have the education foundation provided by these four-year degree programs. Regular courses consist of:

Students interested in trauma surgery must complete four years of medical school and obtain a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree, just like all prospective doctors. 

These programs combine two years of lab and classroom work — generally comprising courses in anything from pharmacology to microbiology — with two additional clinical clerkships.

The comprehensive surgical expertise that trauma surgeons need to be able to treat a variety of injuries to all organ systems is developed during general surgery residencies. 

Students often spend three or more years in a general surgery residency, completing surgical rotations in trauma and cardiac surgery. Additionally, nutrition and patient care are taught to residents.

How Much Does It Cost to Become a Trauma Surgeon? 

Becoming a trauma surgeon is a rewarding specialty since it will always be needed to save other people's lives. That is a compelling motivation to pursue a career as a trauma surgeon.

However, becoming a trauma surgeon is rather expensive once you pay for all required classes, etc. 

According to the AAMC, first-year medical students in 2021-2022 will pay between USD 39,237 and USD 63,630 in tuition. 

Tuition, fees, and student health insurance are all covered; however, living costs such as rent are not.

Taking into consideration time spent in courses, labs, and clinical settings, the median four-year cost of attendance for the Class of 2020 ranged from USD 255,517

to USD 337,584

Tuition, fees, housing, board, books, and supplies are all included in the cost of attendance, which is a more thorough estimate of spending.

It should be noted that the cost of becoming a trauma surgeon varies depending on the medical institution. 

However, the overall cost would be the same as stated previously. We also suggest contacting the medical school you plan to attend for clarification.

How to Become a Trauma Surgeon?

Trauma care is a multidisciplinary care pathway that necessitates 'whole patient' care. It is a crucial job that requires complete dedication. If you want to become a trauma surgeon, here is a detailed discussion of what you must do to reach your dreams of becoming one.

1. Obtain A Bachelor's Degree

Future trauma surgeons must complete a four-year bachelor's degree program before enrolling in medical school. Pre-medicine, biology, microbiology, nursing, or public health are useful degree programs for people who want to go to medical school.

The MCAT exam should be taken near completing your bachelor's degree program. You have plenty of time to retake it before submitting an application to medical schools.

2. Enroll In A Medical School

The typical length of medical school is four years. It entails two years of classroom instruction and two years of clinical practice. 

During this time, medical students gain a foundational understanding of biology, microbiology, pharmacology, pathology, patient care, and patient assessment.

They also study basic anatomy and physiology. They also have the opportunity to put their expertise to use by helping licensed medical professionals and surgeons at hospitals and other healthcare institutions.

Students prepare for and sit for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) near the end of medical school. Medical students who pass this exam are qualified to finish a residency program.

3. Finish The Residency Program

Typically, residency programs last four years to complete. 

Trauma surgery residents should select general surgery as their residency track if they want to specialize in this field. 

This allows them to work with skilled surgeons in many areas and ultimately aids in deciding whether to stick with general surgery or seek a specialization.

4. Finish A Fellowship Course of Study

After completing a residency program, you must finish a one- to two-year fellowship. 

People can get information on where to look for and apply for fellowships focusing on trauma, burn surgery, critical care surgery, and acute care surgery from the American Association For The Surgery Of Trauma (AAST).

In the first year of a fellowship, candidates are typically allowed to fully immerse themselves in a professional setting where they collaborate with trauma surgeons and other medical professionals to perform surgery on patients.

5. Obtain Certification In Trauma Surgery

Trauma surgeons must meet specific state licensing standards, which vary from state to state. For resources and details on whether you require a license to practice medicine in your state, visit that state's Department of Health website.

Additionally, becoming board-certified by the American Board of Surgery can help trauma doctors. 

To finish this process, candidates will probably need to present transcripts and job references that attest to their qualifications.

6. Apply for a Job as a Trauma Surgeon 

There are many places in the United States where you can look for trauma surgeon opportunities because most trauma surgeons work in hospitals. This can assist you in focusing your employment search on a particular region.

You can also focus your search by looking for job openings at trauma centers or hospitals with cutting-edge equipment, a high employee need, or internal career advancement prospects.

Important Qualities Needed to Be a Trauma Surgeon

Suppose you want to become a trauma surgeon. In that case, you must be aware that trauma surgery requires a thorough understanding of surgical techniques and how to treat various injuries. 

Being a trauma surgeon can be incredibly stressful, time-consuming, and demanding but also highly gratifying.

Listed below are the different skills and qualities you must have to become a trauma surgeon:

  • Strong problem-solving and critical-thinking abilities
  • Excellent communication and customer service abilities
  • Strong leadership, analytical, and decision-making abilities
  • Capacity to remain composed and concentrated under stress
  • Adaptability to work irregular, long hours, including weekends and holidays, and to stay on call in case of emergency
  • Outstanding manual dexterity, hand-eye coordination, and the capacity to concentrate for extended periods are required
  • Capacity to work in a high-stress, unexpected situation while dealing with severe time restrictions, psychological demands, and lack of sleep

How Much Do Trauma Surgeons Make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, surgeon demand is expected to rise by 14% between 2016 and 2026. 

Trauma surgeons may make USD 381,749 and USD 521,318 annual average income.

This amount may change depending on a surgeon's specialty, experience level, place of employment, and employer's pay capacity.

Additional FAQs – How to Become a Trauma Surgeon

Is a Trauma Surgeon The Same as a General Surgeon?

Even though there are numerous areas where their duties and responsibilities overlap, general and trauma surgeons often have different roles in hospitals. They have extensive medical knowledge of internal organs and systems and have completed surgical rotations as part of their residency training.

After completing their general surgery residency, trauma surgeons must undergo a second fellowship to specialize in critical care. 

Despite operating on many of the same essential organs as trauma surgeons, general surgeons often do not undertake emergency surgery.

What Are Some Alternative Careers for Trauma Surgeons?

You could opt to work as a surgeon in a non-emergency setting. Consider completing an orthopedic or plastic surgery residency, as these specialists' procedures are frequently arranged months in advance.

Alternatively, you might seek a different career in the emergency room, such as a physician assistant or emergency nurse practitioner, if you wish to concentrate your professional efforts on treating trauma patients.

Take note that these two positions both call for a master's degree.

Where Do Trauma Surgeons Work?

Trauma surgeons frequently work in a hospital or emergency department wing. The military is another setting in which trauma surgeons can find employment.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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