Paediatric Surgeon

What is a Paediatric Surgeon?


At the current level of knowledge that the medical community has, we already know quite a lot about the diseases that affect the human body and how we are supposed to treat them. However, it is important to remember that treating diseases in the human body isn’t all that cut and dry – especially when it comes to children. Though we like to think of them as such, children are not and should not be seen as “little adults”; because they have yet to grow and develop into their full adult forms, the body of a child will respond to diseases and treatments to said diseases differently from a fully grown adult. These differences are significant enough to warrant its own field of medical specialisation – paediatrics.

Paediatrics (also spelled paediatrics) is a branch of medicine that is concerned with the medical care of infants and children under 18 years old. As a parent, one may have already consulted with a paediatric i an regarding the health of their child and you can also check for more information. With this in mind, then, what is a paediatric surgeon, and what makes them any different from a paediatrician?

Paediatrician vs. Paediatric Surgeon

Just as there are many different specialisations in adult medicine, paediatrics also has a wide variety of subspecialties that focus on a certain area of the body or on specific types of ailments and illnesses. The doctor that parents are most likely to consult regarding their child’s illness is the general paediatrician. Though they have “general” in their names, general paediatricians can be considered specialists in their own right, as their job is to accurately diagnose the illness of your child – this requires a vast knowledge of the many, many unique illnesses that affect children and infants, from the common to the extremely rare.

While general paediatricians are also trained to treat common illnesses, they will usually work with a specialist paediatrician to treat some of the more complex cases. One such specialist is the paediatric surgeon, who can be thought of as a general surgeon that instead focuses on performing similar surgical procedures on children and even infants. Paediatric surgeons are trained to perform a very wide variety of surgical operations, that range from treating simple birth defects such as ankyloglossia to more complex interventions such as transplants. Like a general paediatrician, paediatric surgeons are expected to have a high degree of proficiency in their specialisation, as the smaller, more delicate bodies of children and infants require a higher level of care and precision in each movement.

How to become a Paediatric Surgeon

The road to becoming a paediatric surgeon is long, winding, and difficult, with only a very small number of doctors given the chance to pursue training in this speciality. The governing body for paediatric surgeons in Australia and New Zealand is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons or RACS, which also provides the training programs for both countries.

Like most other programs for specialisation in a certain surgical practice, one must first become a qualified and registered medical doctor – this means acquiring a 4-year science-related undergraduate degree, as well as completing a 4-year course in medical school – then completing their internship year and at least 1 additional year of their residency or postgraduate training (PGY2). Completion of these requirements allows one to apply for further training and specialisation in paediatric surgery.

The application process for the paediatric surgery training program is a rigorous screening and selection process handled by the Board of Paediatric Surgery under the RACS. This selection process will examine the eligible candidates’ curricula vitae and reports from accredited supervising surgical consultants whom the candidates have worked with. The next stage of the screening process is an interview with the candidates by multiple panels consisting of members of the Board of Paediatric Surgery, during which the candidates will be assessed on their competencies as surgeons through the use of hypothetical scenarios. After this screening process, the Board of Paediatric Surgery will release their results and notify successful applicants of their entry into the training program.

The training program for paediatric surgery consists of 7 years of full-time training and work in accredited medical centres. These seven years are split into two main phases, the first of which involves three years of full-time training. Trainees will be educated on surgical procedures in Operative Surgery for 24 months and will receive further training on Paediatric Surgery for the remaining 12 months. The second phase will throw the trainee into real-world applications in which they will be working full time in specialised training posts in an accredited medical centre for 4 more years. The trainee will also take several examinations throughout their training program and will become a Fellow of the RACS upon its completion.

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