What Is a General Surgeon and What Do They Do? (With Responsibilities and Skills)

General surgeons are doctors who specialize in surgical procedures. Surgery is any procedure that alters body tissues to diagnose or treat a medical condition. A general surgeon is part of a surgical team that also includes an anesthesiologist, nurses, and surgical technicians. You’ll talk to the surgeon about the procedure prior to surgery.

General surgeons are trained to diagnose and manage a wide range of diseases and disorders that may require surgical treatment. Their area of expertise is, essentially, the entire body. It includes: The head and neck.

What do General Surgeons actually do? Why do they love their job?

General surgeon job responsibilities

General surgeons train to provide surgical care to the whole patient. They commonly operate on the following areas:

General surgeons may also treat ailments such as burns, cancer, head injuries and neck injuries. They can also perform transplants or vascular surgery. In more rural locations, where specialty surgeons are less available, general surgeons may perform a wider range of surgeries.

The general surgeons duties begin before the surgery. They typically meet with the patient before surgery to discuss their options, the recommended surgical procedure and answer questions the patient may have. If the patient consents to the surgery, the general surgeon then schedules the surgery and performs the operation alongside other medical professionals, such as other doctors and nurses. The final responsibilities of general surgeons occur after the procedure, when they discuss the success of the operation with the patient and their loved ones. They also provide post-operation care, ensuring that there are no complications from the surgery.

What is a general surgeon?

A general surgeon is a type of medical surgeon who performs operations for a wide range of common ailments. Besides performing these surgeries, general surgeons also have a primary role in patient care both before and after the surgery. Every surgeon starts their training in general surgery before they can move onto another specialty, such as heart or brain surgery.

General surgeon work environment

Surgeons typically work in hospital settings but some work at health centers or clinics. Some general surgeons even open up their own practices. During their first few years as a surgeon, general surgeons may work irregular and long hours. As they gain experience or move into a specialty, they may have more control over their work schedule. General surgeon duties frequently include performing emergency surgeries, which can occur during the surgeons off-hours.

Average salary and job outlook for a general surgeon

The first requirement for becoming a general surgeon is a bachelors degree. Majors like biology, physiology and anatomy during undergraduate study can help prepare you to be a general surgeon. Regardless of your major, look to take as many classes as you can related to biology, anatomy and chemistry, since these fields are crucial further on in your education.

After obtaining a bachelors degree, you can then apply to medical schools. Most medical schools require exam results from the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. Strong undergraduate grades and MCAT scores can give you the best chance of being accepted to medical school. Medical school lasts four years, with the second two years providing more hands-on training.

Following medical school, you then enter a medical residency program which can take another five or six years. Surgeons during this time learn a wide range of skills under the supervision of more experienced surgeons. After completing your medical residency, you then take a medical exam in order to receive your medical license. When you finish this educational process, you can then apply for general surgeon positions.

General surgeon skills

Below are some skills used by general surgeons:


General surgeons regularly work with other medical professionals during a procedure. It takes an entire team of people to perform even the simplest of surgeries. General surgeons are able to work well with others and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goal. General surgeons may work in both leadership roles and assistive roles during different surgeries, so they are comfortable in both roles.


General surgeons use their communication skills in two important ways. First, they clearly communicate with their patients. They explain every detail of the surgery and help relieve any fears the patient may have. General surgeons also use communication skills during surgery as they give out clear directions to those assisting them to ensure there are no mistakes.

Attention to detail

Performing surgery requires acute attention to detail to ensure the best care for the patient. General surgeons make sure they are following proper protocols exactly and adhering to all hospital safety standards. They also keep meticulous records of their patients to assist medical professionals involved in post-surgery care.

Hand-eye coordination

Performing surgery requires deft motor skills, particularly hand-eye coordination. General surgeons operate in a small space with no room for error. They are able to perform precise movements with their hands, often in hard-to-see settings.

Stamina and patience

Some surgeries are long-lasting and slow. General surgeons have the stamina to remain on their feet for several hours without a break and remain focused during this time. General surgeons also have the patience to conduct a surgery slowly and not rush through it. In addition, general surgeons may sometimes work long hours.

Time management

General surgeons often work long hours and sometimes in different locations. They can fit all their necessary tasks into their daily schedule and arrive promptly for all patient meetings. General surgeons also find time to review the latest medical studies, complete patient reports and review the materials learned in medical school.


General surgeons use their problem-solving skills if something goes wrong during surgery. When something unexpected happens, general surgeons often need to think quickly to solve the problem. They rely on their years of education and training to find a solution to the problem and resume the surgery safely. General surgeons also use their problem-solving skills when considering different surgical options for a patient.


What is the role of a general surgeon?

General surgeons are doctors who specialize in surgical procedures. Surgery is any procedure that alters body tissues to diagnose or treat a medical condition. A general surgeon is part of a surgical team that also includes an anesthesiologist, nurses, and surgical technicians.

What falls under general surgery?

General surgery is a surgical specialty that focuses on alimentary canal and abdominal contents including the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, liver, pancreas, gallbladder, appendix and bile ducts, and often the thyroid gland.

Can a general surgeon perform?

A: A general surgeon can perform a broad range of surgical procedures on soft tissues, anything from excising small skin lesions and cysts up to larger cases like colectomies (removal of some or all of the colon), procedures on the bowel and liver including gallbladder removal, and complex hernia repairs.

What does a general surgeon do in a day?

They see patients daily, either in their office to diagnose illnesses and discuss surgical treatments, in the surgical suite of the hospital to perform necessary operations, or in their clinic or at the hospital to see how patients are recovering.

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