Working life (T&O surgery)

This page provides useful information on the working week as well as any on-call and other commitments, along with information on who you will work with. The attractions and challenges of the job are also in this section.

"For me, orthopaedic surgery is simply the best surgical specialty. It’s all about reconstruction rather than resection, and by giving back people their mobility you help maintain their independence and quality of life.” - David Large, Consultant T&O Surgeon, Ayr Hospital, Scotland.

“T&O is certainly one of the most satisfying surgical specialties. It combines the excitement, (and stress) of the emergency call to A&E where you are faced with the acute management of the seriously injured road traffic accident patient with the treatment of a patient with a degenerative hip or knee who needs a joint replacement. T&O transforms lives and can restore the patient with multiple fractures to full function so that they are able to return to their normal occupation. It can also enable the patient who is losing their mobility and independence because of an arthritic hip or knee to once more return to their normal daily living activities.” - David Stanley, Consultant T&O Surgeon, Sheffield.

Most trained surgeons in this specialty contribute to the emergency trauma service. However in some hospitals, T&O surgeons concentrate on emergency work, whilst others focus on elective surgery. Elective surgery is planned treatment for chronic conditions, such as hip or knee replacement for osteoarthritis.

How your time is spent

T&O surgeons generally spend about 40% of their time operating, and the remainder in outpatient clinics, the emergency department and assessing/monitoring patients before and after surgery. A typical week might include three operating sessions, with one comprising trauma cases and the other two elective surgery, alongside their other duties.

Some surgery such as fracture repairs can take several hours and you may be doing emergency work in the evenings or at weekends. Surgery can sometimes take longer than anticipated.

Any surgical post involves its share of administrative work - including writing letters to GPs and patients, attendance at departmental, multidisciplinary, national and international meetings, clinical governance, audit and research.  There is also a significant teaching role.

You will often work in a district general hospital but there are also opportunities to work in specialist centres or orthopaedic hospitals.

On-call and working hours

There is more on-call work for T&O surgery in comparison to other surgical specialties.

Most, but not all orthopaedic surgeons take part in on-call rotas to cover the trauma workload. The frequency of on-call varies from 1 in 6 to 1 in 12-15 depending on the size of the unit. On-call workload will be more intense in bigger units and in designated major trauma centres, but in general there is less overnight work than in other specialties as many cases can safely be scheduled during daytime hours.

Although the EU Working Time Regulation limits the working week to 48 hours many consultant surgeons work well beyond this limit.

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