When an individual has been diagnosed with damage or injury to the heart and blood vessels through their general doctor or cardiologist, he or she is typically referred to a cardiovascular surgeon. This type of surgeon specializes in the heart and blood vessels and repairs damages most often caused by cardiovascular diseases. With an estimated 80 million Americans suffering from at least one type of heart disease, the demand for qualified and capable cardiovascular surgeons is quickly rising.
What is a Cardiovascular Surgeon?
A cardiovascular surgeon is a physician who has specialized in heart diseases, conditions and treatment procedures. After earning a medical education, these professionals continued studying for many years, focusing on the heart and the way it works, as well as procedures that repair heart and blood vessel damage. A cardiovascular surgeon has thoroughly studied the best possible heart care, which involves everything from the initial diagnosis of any damage or irregularities, creating treatment plans, performing surgical procedures to repair or prevent heart and blood vessel damage, and following the progress of the patient.
Cardiovascular surgeons are trained to:
While a lot of focus is placed on the surgeon part of a cardiovascular surgeon’s title, the overall job of this professional is to care for the patient in the best way possible and to take the patient fully into account before recommending any type of treatment. For instance, Dr. Harold Roberts, an independently practicing heart surgeon in Aventura, Florida advocates for minimally invasive heart surgeries, and says, “A minimally invasive heart bypass may be a suggestion if you have one or two blocked coronary arteries. Though surgery is often a suggestion, before jumping to surgery, a doctor may have tried treatment with medicine, cardiac rehabilitation, an angioplasty or other treatments.”
A doctoral or professional degree is the entry-level educational requirement for cardiovascular surgeons.
Step by Step Educational Path of a Cardiovascular Surgeon
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 691,400 physicians and surgeons were employed in the year 2012. Of those professionals, most work in independent offices or clinics with a staff of nurses and administrative professionals. They may move back and forth between their clinic and the nearest hospital to treat their patients effectively. Some cardiovascular surgeons work in group practices or hospitals where they combine their skills with those of other physicians in order to effectively treat patients.
In a private office, the cardiovascular surgeon typically sees patients that have been referred by their general medical doctors due to health conditions related to the heart or vascular system. Cardiovascular surgeons may also work in hospitals to diagnose and treat emergent patients with life-threatening conditions. Some other facilities where a cardiovascular surgeon’s skills and knowledge are put to use include educational facilities, or in teaching hospitals where they will assist aspiring surgeons in honing their skills and talent.
Cardiovascular surgeons work long hours and are on-call often, which contributes to the stress of the job. However, these surgeons always have a team of medical professionals at their disposal, to offer assistance and support with each procedure.
Employers require cardiovascular surgeons to possess the following qualities in addition to their knowledge:
As mentioned above, cardiovascular surgeons must possess a license in order to legally practice medicine and surgery in any state. This is achieved by passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination, which is a three-step examination with each step being completed at some point during the cardiovascular surgeon’s medical career and training:
The following associations will not only increase a cardiovascular surgeon’s chances of being hired, but can assist him or her in various ways throughout his or her career:
According to the Medscape Physician Compensation Report of 2014, cardiology specialists are some of the highest paid physicians, earning an annual salary of approximately $351,000 a year. They are second only to orthopedic specialists.
All physicians and surgeons jobs are increasing, with an expected 18% growth through the year 2022 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. With this kind of growth, approximately 123,300 new jobs will be available for physicians through the year 2022. The American Heart Association even expects a serious shortage of cardiothoracic (very similar to cardiovascular) surgeons within the next ten years due to the massive increase in the number of individuals suffering from heart disease.
Starting a Private Practice
Many cardiovascular surgeons enter the industry with the idea of ending up in their own private practice. It gives them the opportunity to work independently, under their own guidelines and rules. However, recent trends in the industry have led to a decrease in the number of cardiac physicians going into private practice. According to an article published by FOX, in the last three years, the number of cardiothoracic surgeons in private practice has gone from 80% to 30%.
Although the numbers seem to be fairly evenly divided when it comes to specialists who feel private practice is a good idea and those who feel it is not, American College of Cardiology CEO Dr. Jack Lewin says, “There is a little concern that when a physician is employed by a non-physician entity that they are no longer the unfettered advocate of the patient necessarily. They’re working for a boss who may drive things in a different direction. I don’t think that’s happening right now, but we don’t know where this goes in the future.” He adds, “…it’s a dramatic change to have the majority of cardiologists now moving into hospital employment and out of private practice.”
Becoming a surgeon and specializing in cardiology gives physicians the opportunity to provide sound medical care to a huge (and growing) group of people. It is an exciting and thrilling career-field that is hungry for highly-qualified heart specialists. These professionals, whether they opt for a private practice or employment with a hospital, can rely on job security and stability as well as economic stability.