An orthopedist is a doctor who specializes in treating individuals who have medical conditions that involve the bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Also known as an orthopedic surgeon, a person in this field typically works to diagnose and care for patients who have suffered such things as broken bones and torn ligaments and tendons. Essentially, his job is treating disorders and conditions of the parts of the body that allow movement. An individual in this field may choose to focus on setting bones, opt to correct deformities, or treat individuals who have suffered some type of trauma.
While doctors who work in orthopedics may be best known for helping people with broken bones and treating individuals who need joints replaced or repaired, especially in the knee and hip area, these doctors are trained to do a lot more. Doctors in this field also provide treatment to straighten patients' spines and use prosthetics in treating those who have lost limbs. Some orthopedists work with patients who have deformed hands or feet, and some decide to focus only on injures that stem from participation in sports. There are some who specialize in treating disabled and injured children while others may focus on treating tumors, infections, and degenerative diseases.
An orthopedist typically diagnoses patients and uses both medical and surgical techniques to treat them. He may work closely with other doctors who refer patients to him, reviewing the referred patients’ records and sharing treatment options with the referring physician. A person in this field may also examine patients and order a range of tests, such as x-rays and other types of imaging procedures. He may coordinate a patient’s post-surgery care as well, meeting with his patients to monitor their recovery. An orthopedist may maintain a private office or work in a hospital, surgical center, or sports-medicine clinic; a person in this field may even opt to become a college professor or devote his career to research rather than the treatment of patients.
A person who decides to become an orthopedist usually has many years of preparation ahead of him. After completing high school, a person who wants to become an orthopedist usually goes on to attend college for four years before completing four years of medical school training. Following medical school, an orthopedist typically completes residency training that lasts for five years. When an orthopedist decides to pursue a specialty, training can last even longer. An aspiring orthopedist may spend an additional year on specialty training.