What Is an Orthopedic Surgery Residency?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2019
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An orthopedic surgery residency is on-the-job training for a doctor who wants to become an orthopedic surgeon. This type of training usually prepares a surgeon to perform general and orthopedic surgeries by providing a varied range of hands-on experiences. Orthopedic surgery residency programs also expose aspiring surgeons to a variety of sub-specialties in the orthopedic medicine field. As with other types of on-the-job training, an orthopedic surgery residency usually pays the participant while allowing him to build up experience that is critical to his success as a surgeon.

Aspiring orthopedic surgeons typically spend many years preparing for their health care careers. They start with about four years of college and then spend another four years in medical school. Once they graduate, however, their preparation still isn't complete. Hopeful surgeons still have to complete an on-the-job training program called an orthopedic surgery residency in preparation for their careers. The length of this residency usually varies but often lasts for about five years.


During an orthopedic surgery residency, an aspiring surgeon becomes a surgical team member at the facility that offers the residency program. Typically, this is a hospital, but some schools and other types of facilities host surgeons in residency programs as well. During an orthopedic surgery residency, the aspiring orthopedic surgeon will typically have to work based on a carefully crafted schedule, but he may have to spend some time working on call as well. On call means he can be called in to work on an as-needed basis.

An orthopedic surgery residency usually includes a period of time that is spent on general surgery, and an aspiring surgeon will likely rotate through different departments during this period, including emergency room, critical care, and plastic surgery. He will typically also receive training in neurosurgery and a range of orthopedic surgery sub-specialties, such as reconstruction, pediatric orthopedics, hand surgery, foot surgery, and spine surgery. He might also train in microvascular surgery, which involves small blood vessels, and orthopedic oncology, which involves the treatment of tumors in soft tissue and bone. Spine surgery and sports medicine are usually included as well.

Residency training usually proceeds with steadily increasing levels of independence for the aspiring surgeon. He will likely proceed from observing and assisting with surgeries to eventually acting as the primary surgeon on his own cases. He may also participate in research and attend conferences and seminars as part of his orthopedic surgery residency.


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