Job Description for an OB-GYN

By Elizabeth Layne
view of a doctor watching a new mother feed the baby with a bottle
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OB-GYN, shorthand for obstetrician/gynecologist, pertains to two medical specialties. Although obstetrics, which refers to delivering babies, might be the oldest medical art, most obstetricians also practice gynecology because only delivering babies would not typically provide much business. The profession requires diverse daily duties, and it offers OB-GYNs opportunities to provide various types of surgical procedures and practice preventive medicine.

Keeping Women Healthy

Overall, an OB-GYN provides medical and surgical care to women. Obstetrics involves taking care of women before and during pregnancy and at childbirth, as well as their fetuses and newborn babies, and performing procedures such as cesarean sections. Duties related to gynecology include diagnosing and treating disorders of the female reproductive system. They can diagnose conditions such as infection, endometriosis, and ovarian and breast cancers. OB-GYNs sometimes provide primary care. They also continually take courses to update their skills. Due to the nature of their practice, OB-GYNs are frequently on call, and their hours can be quite long, as they may have to help women through labors lasting longer than 24 hours. On average, OB-GYNs work 58 hours a week, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Multitude of Duties

OB-GYNs place a priority on encouraging patients to maintain healthy lifestyles. They're likely to provide information about exercise, nutrition and planning pregnancies. They also warn of the dangers of smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol excessively. After examining patients, they order the appropriate tests to nail down a diagnosis. Then they explain the test results, provide treatment options and monitor the patient's progress. OB-GYNs, with further education, can subspecialize in fields such as critical care medicine, female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgery, gynecologic oncology, and reproductive endocrinology and infertility. When required, they refer patients to other specialists and consult with other health care providers when necessary.

Other Positions

If they are in private practice, OB-GYNs require business and administrative skills, such as bookkeeping, marketing and personnel matters, as do those who work in administrative capacities in hospitals or who run community health programs. OB-GYNs running hospital or community health programs may also need to be familiar with the public policy and governmental regulations concerning their hospital or community programs. Some OB-GYNs go on to teach in medical schools. In medical schools and for private corporations, they can also perform research on diseases and their treatments and write articles for medical and scientific journals.

Becoming Qualified

Aspiring OB-GYNs graduate from medial school and complete 4 years of a hospital residency program that provides training in areas such as preconceptional health, pregnancy, postpartum care, genetic counseling, women's overall health, management of hormonal disorders, and surgery to treat pelvic organ and urinary tract problems. All doctors must be licensed in the state in which they work. State licensing requirements vary.

A Good Outlook

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects that, for physicians and surgeons overall, employment will grow 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations, with growth best for specialties that treat conditions affecting aging baby boomers. The I Have a Plan Iowa website notes that OB-GYNs will be in demand as female baby boomers increasingly reach menopause. According to the BLS, in 2012, obstetricians and gynecologists made mean annual salaries of $216,760.

About the Author

Located in the mid-Atlantic United States, Elizabeth Layne has covered nonprofits and philanthropy since 1997, and has written articles on an array of topics for small businesses and career-seekers. An award-winning writer, her work has appeared in "The Chronicle of Philanthropy" newspaper and "Worth" magazine. Layne holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The George Washington University.