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How to Become a Trauma Surgeon

Majors Overview January 1, 2013

Trauma surgery is among the most challenging and intense career options in the surgical field. Trauma surgery involves treatment of blunt-force and penetrating injuries that are extremely severe and life-threatening. In this article, we will look at the career path of a trauma surgeon and discuss what an aspiring trauma surgeon must do in order to pursue their career.

An aspiring trauma surgeon begins by completing an undergraduate degree program then they must attend a medical school for four years. Thereafter, they have to gain several years of experience as a general surgeon. Trauma surgeons are required to meet licensure norms before they are allowed to practice their profession. Trauma surgeons are often called on to operate on different injuries to various organs of an individual’s body. Some of the organs that are most commonly operated on are the colon, stomach, spleens and pancreas. Trauma surgeons are often required to work in partnership with other specialty surgeons in stabilizing patients in critical condition; they are usually employed in unpredictable and high-stress job environments and their work is usually completed in the emergency care section of a hospital.

Education Requirements

Prospective trauma surgeons must start by earning a bachelor degree in one of several fields, including biology, pre-medicine or other related area. These are four year programs intended to provide candidates with the necessary preparation before attending a medical school. Coursework typically includes subject areas such as physics, chemistry, anatomy and biology.

Doctoral Programs

After completing four years of medical school; a potential trauma surgeon must complete a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) program. M.D. programs are a combination of classroom lectures and lab work; coursework usually covers topics ranging from microbiology to pharmacology. Thereafter, students are required to take two additional years of clinical clerkship. Clerkship rotations include hands-on experience working on patients in real health care settings. Candidates may be required to meet licensure norms by taking the United States Medical Licensing Examination before they are allowed to practice.

Medical Residency Programs

General surgery residency establishes the broad base of surgical skill necessary to trauma surgeons, who must be able to handle different types of injuries to all organ parts. Students typically spend at least three years or more in a residency program where they will complete surgery rotations in cardiac and trauma surgery. Residents are trained on nutrition and patient care.


Once they have completed the residency program and accrued the specific experience requirements set by the American Board of Surgery (ABS), the member of the American Board of Medical Specialties that certify surgeons, residents may take the General Surgery Qualifying Examination, followed by the General Surgery Certifying Examination ( Prospective trauma surgeon who successfully pass both examinations are qualified to take the Surgical Critical Care (SCC) Certifying Examination to become board certified in trauma surgery.

Trauma Fellowship Program

Once they have completed their medical residency, surgeons will enter into a one to two years fellowship program in critical care and trauma. The programs offer surgeons supplementary training on supporting vital organs, such as the kidneys and lungs; in addition, managing organ transplants and other high-risk procedures. The fellows will gain advanced experience with management and assessment of patients in critical condition. Fellows may complete clinical research in surgery along with teaching residents and staff.

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