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Orthopaedic surgeon

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Summary of occupation

An orthopaedic surgeon is a specialist in the surgical treatment of injuries to and diseases of the musculoskeletal system.

They perform arthroscopic surgery, total joint replacements, ligament reconstructions, and use surgery to treat musculoskeletal trauma, sports injuries, degenerative diseases, congenital disorders, and tumours.

There are currently just over 100 orthopaedic surgeons in Western Australia, most of whom work in the Perth metropolitan area.

ANZSCO description: Performs surgery to treat muscular and skeletal diseases and injuries. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names:
Specialisations:
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

​An orthopaedic surgeon needs:

  • good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination
  • good communication skills to liaise with other physicians and provide clear information to patients
  • to be accurate, efficient, and organised
  • to maintain concentration for long periods
  • to be able to work well under pressure
  • discretion and respect for patient confidentiality.
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Working conditions

​Orthopaedic surgeons may work in the public or private hospital system or in their own private consultation practice. They may also supervise and teach medical students, residents and registrars. They may be required to work long shifts, odd hours and weekends. They may be required to be on-call in case of an emergency.

Orthopaedic surgeons operate in completely sterile theatre rooms and must wear protective clothing.

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Salary details

On average, orthopaedic surgeons can expect to earn between $2 885 and $7 692 per week ($150 000 and $400 000 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience.

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Tools and technologies

Orthopaedic surgeons use a range of specialised surgical instruments while operating on patients, such as scalpels, retractors, saws, drills and forceps. 

Outside of the operating theatre, orthopaedic surgeons can also use technologies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, electromyogram (EMG), X-rays, bone scans, and Nerve Conduction Study (NCS) testing to assist in diagnosis and to follow up progress after surgery.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

​To become an orthopaedic surgeon you must first become a qualified doctor and then specialise in orthopaedic surgery.

In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test (GAMSAT) and attend an interview at your chosen institution. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To then specialise in orthopaedic surgery, you must register with the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) and undergo a training program at accredited hospitals, and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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