What is Involved in a General Surgery Residency?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.

A general surgery residency is a training period for doctors that want to become surgeons. This program is usually completed after successfully graduating from medical school, and may last from three to seven years. A general surgery residency allows doctors to train in all major areas of surgery; many go on to complete specialty training in a particular area after a residency is complete.

A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.

Entrance into a general surgery residency program is often extremely competitive. In order to qualify, applicants must have excellent grades from medical schools, as well as satisfactory scores on required medical exams. Fortunately, there are hundreds or even thousands of hospitals and universities that offer surgery residencies, so the chances of finding an acceptable match can be quite good.

Following residency, many doctors will get experience working in the emergency room.
Following residency, many doctors will get experience working in the emergency room.

In the first year of most general surgery residency programs, a doctor is usually referred to as an intern. He or she spends the year learning about operating procedure, including both pre-operative and post-operative care, as well as a variety of operating techniques and skills. Training may often include experience in handling administrative tasks, such as writing and reading patient charts, taking notes for attending physicians, and understanding the administrative flow of a hospital. Interns are often in the charge of more experienced residents, who are largely responsible for their initial training.

Residents will often participate in surgeries with other doctors to learn on the job.
Residents will often participate in surgeries with other doctors to learn on the job.

Each following year of residency, a doctor will gain more and more responsibility and opportunity within the program. Introduced tasks include caring for patients in intensive care facilities, participating in surgeries, working in trauma or emergency rooms, and eventually teaching their own interns. Along the way, resident surgeons often gain a clear picture of which area they want to specialize in after the residency is completed. Many will attempt to work with the established surgeons in their chosen field, to gain advanced skills and a better understanding of the practice as a whole.

Residencies are extremely stressful jobs.
Residencies are extremely stressful jobs.

Regardless of where a general surgery residency is completed, the course of study is intensely exhausting on both mental and physical levels. Doctors frequently work multi-day shifts, some not even able to leave the hospital to sleep. As new doctors, they may be treated with suspicion and even contempt by more experienced physicians, hospital professionals, and even patients. The stressful atmosphere of a hospital itself, with life and death constantly coursing through the halls, can be enough to cause extreme emotional stress. According to some studies, residents suffer a high risk of certain psychological disorders, including depression.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis

With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica is passionate about drama and film. She has many other interests, and enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics in her role as a wiseGEEK writer.

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    • Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
      Med school graduates must complete a residency training program.
    • A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
      A scalpel is a small, sharp knife that is used in surgeries to make incisions.
    • Following residency, many doctors will get experience working in the emergency room.
      Following residency, many doctors will get experience working in the emergency room.
    • Residents will often participate in surgeries with other doctors to learn on the job.
      Residents will often participate in surgeries with other doctors to learn on the job.
    • Residencies are extremely stressful jobs.
      Residencies are extremely stressful jobs.
    • Surgery residents suffer a high risk of certain psychological disorders.
      Surgery residents suffer a high risk of certain psychological disorders.