Urology is the study and surgical management of conditions and diseases that affect the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive organs. Many people do not realize that urologists are actually surgeons, but he or she also needs advanced knowledge in pediatrics, internal medicine, gynecology and other areas due to the complex nature of the conditions they treat. According to the American Urological Association, urologists may specialize in a variety of treatment areas including female urology, neurourology (voiding disorders, impotence, etc.), male infertility, pediatrics, renal transplantation and others. Urology is one of the longest and most competitive educational courses available in medicine today. As with most healthcare related jobs, career growth is expected to expand dramatically in the coming years with a high paying annual salary that ranges from $250,000 to $400,000 depending on years of experience, expertise, and many other factors.
Urologists may perform a broad spectrum of duties depending on their area of expertise, but many duties are common throughout. Urologists treat diseases and conditions of the male and female urological system including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra plus the male reproductive system including non-medical urologic management of urinary tract infections and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Surgical treatments may include managing cancers, treating congenital abnormalities, removing kidney stones, operating on the adrenal glands and correcting stress incontinence.
When treating reproductive issues in men, urologists may provide vasectomies or vasectomy reversals, or treatment for conditions like erectile dysfunction. Though more rare, some urologists perform cosmetic procedures such as penile enlargement or gender reassignment surgeries.
Urologists may work in a clinic, private practice or hospital setting and all are prepared to provide some of the most advanced surgical approaches available. The field of urology has long been recognized for their commitment to finding new and better surgical approaches.
Urology is a complex field that overlaps many different areas of medicine. For this reason, physicians need to be good critical thinkers and skilled at patient assessment. As specialists, urologists work with referring providers like family or general practice physicians so good communication skills are very important. Being able to work well as a team is important during surgery and good manual dexterity is essential for working with the small, delicate structures of the urinary and reproductive areas of the body.
Urologists spend up to 14 years in school. It’s a bad idea to commit that much time only to find out it’s not for you. Here are a few points to consider:
Becoming a urologist takes many years and many grueling hours in the operating room. Don’t forget that urology is a surgical specialty—much like a cardiologist, gastroenterologist or neurologist. You will be operating on complex conditions and areas of the body and this means lots of school and lots of training.
Urologists will begin with a four -year undergraduate degree—usually in biology or chemistry—before starting medical school which also takes four years. A general surgery residency is next and is usually one to two years long then finally you can begin looking for a urology residency program. With only 120 or so urology residency programs in the United States, getting in could be tricky but once your accepted, you’ll spend another three to four years working on just urologic issues. Some programs will provide general surgery and urology residencies at the same school. Other programs will require applicants to complete general surgery before applying to the program. Just in case you lost track, that’s 14 years of school
Urologists held the fifth highest pay among physicians in 2012 and most have reported steady, predictable income over the last several years. Average pay for a new urologist is approximately $250,000 per year. Established providers can expect a significantly higher pay range of about $340,000. A very small percentage of urologists have reported income figures of $700,000, but this is not typical. Salary ranges are determined by a variety of factors including geographic location (physicians in the Great Lakes region of the U.S make the most), work setting, and specialty area.
Urology has a big overlap into a variety of other fields. Because urology focuses on the lower abdominal area and pelvis, urologists may blur lines with nephrology, gynecology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, andrology, and oncology. Keep in mind that their area of study has not been exclusively focused on each of these fields and in-depth issues or advanced care should be provided by a different specialist. For example, a urologist may remove a bladder cancer but the patient’s oncologist will coordinate chemotherapy treatments.
The decision to practice urology as a travel or locum tenens physician can be very exciting. With contracts that last a few weeks or up to a year, physicians can enjoy the benefits of working in some of the country’s best medical facilities while enjoying the culture of other areas. Traveling also allows you to try out an area and see if you like it before relocating. Travel urology jobs aren’t for everyone. You should be an independent thinker, flexible and able to adapt to new work environments with ease. If you do decide to hit the road, you can also take advantage of paid housing and travel expenses and competitive pay.
By Rachel Ballard RNC, BSN
Rachel Ballard is a certified registered nurse and owner of the medical writing company iHealth Communications. iHealth teams with healthcare leaders to create written content that boosts revenue and builds relationships. Learn more about Rachel on Google+