Neonatal Surgeon: Job Description and Education Requirements

Neonatal surgeons are specialized medical doctors that operate on newborns. To become a neonatal surgeon, one must complete a general surgery residency followed by a 2-year pediatric training program. Neonatal surgeons work in private practice, university and private hospitals.

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Job Description of a Neonatal Surgeon

Neonatal surgery is a sub-specialty of pediatric surgery. A general surgeon can perform surgery on adults and children, but pediatric surgeons have the advanced education and skills necessary to perform surgery on infants and very young children. Neonatal surgeons are pediatric surgeons with additional education and training to perform corrective surgeries on newborns. They often repair chest, abdominal and urologic birth defects.

Neonatal surgeons are responsible for surgical preparation and oversight of critical patient after-care. They work with a neonatal hospital teams to ensure a successful outcome of each surgery. Neonatal surgeons may use ultrasound technology to check for fetus abnormalities before birth. This gives the surgeon the opportunity to discuss issues with the parents and determine surgical strategy before birth.

Salary and Career Outlook

Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not analyze statistics on neonatal surgeons specifically, it does report that surgeons and physicians in general are expected to see a job growth of 18% between the years of 2012 and 2022. The website PayScale.com reported in 2014 that most pediatric surgeons earned between $59,149 and $472,819 at that time, with the median annual salary falling at $294,340.

Education Requirements for a Neonatal Surgeon

Aspiring neonatal surgeons should earn an undergraduate degree that includes courses in biology, organic chemistry and advanced math. Harvard University says that it is not necessary to have an undergraduate degree in science to be admitted to medical school. A well-rounded undergraduate education that includes science is preferred (www.harvard.edu).

Next, students must obtain a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) through an accredited 4-year medical school program and become a licensed physician by passing the United States Medical Licensing Examination. Once a licensed M.D., completion of a general surgical residency program in an accredited hospital is required. These programs usually take 5-8 years to complete. Students are then eligible for American Board of Surgery's general surgery certification.

General surgeons then must complete a 2-year pediatric surgery training program with a neonatal sub-specialty, which may include two years of intensive surgeries. In some cases, a third year of research is available.

After completing a 2-year program accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, students are eligible to take the American Board of Surgery's certification examination for pediatric surgery. Both a written and oral examination are required.

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