Being a surgeon comes with many advantages; high pay is the first that often comes to mind. A general surgeon makes almost $370,000 a year, while those specializing in thoracic surgery can earn over $525,000 annually. Surgery is also said to be a rewarding, challenging and quite prestigious profession, but there are risks and dangers inherent with this career.
Surgeons -- as well as other medical professionals -- are at a far greater risk of contracting a blood-borne disease than almost any other occupation. The prick of a needle or the nick of a scalpel could expose a surgeon to whatever disease a patient may have. A study by Harvard Medical School estimates that 17 to 57 deaths per million workers occur in the healthcare industry each year as a result of occupational exposure. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but with over nine million people working in the industry, that's 153 to 486 deaths a year. And that's just deaths; statistics are lacking for those who are living with a disease caused by occupational exposures.
No one can deny being a surgeon is a stressful business. Physicians experience a higher level of stress than the general population, according to the “British Medical Journal.” Around 28 percent of physicians show above threshold levels of stress, while it’s closer to 18 percent in the general population. Increased stress brings with it many health-related problems, including headaches, insomnia, fatigue, gastrointestinal issues and high blood pressure, among others.
It’s difficult to imagine that anyone in the healthcare industry would leave mental-health issues unchecked, especially their own. Physicians, though, are less likely than the general public to get care or even recognize they’re suffering from depression, burnout or other mental illnesses. The rate of suicide is 40 percent higher than average for male doctors and 130 percent higher for female doctors.
It takes time to get through medical school, complete a residency and land a job, so many surgeons enter the field carrying a great deal of debt. As of 2010, the average med student owed around $145,000 when she graduated from school. If you graduate from a private medical school, the debts are even higher, coming in at $155,000, according to “U.S. News and World Report.”