Tips for finding a good surgeon

By Dr. Terry Gueldner

Question: My personal physician has recommended I see a surgeon because of recurring abdominal pain and possible gallbladder disease. How do I find a good surgeon?

Answer: In either emergent or non-emergent situations, there are some aspects about finding quality physicians and surgeons that may prove helpful for you.

Most quality surgeons should have completed a rigorous surgical residency at a reputable training program before beginning their private surgical practice. Some have advanced fellowship training.

Surgeons, like most other physicians who practice at area hospitals, go through credential and other background checks before being allowed on staff at the hospital.

Surgeons are also reviewed by specialty boards and societies to document specific training, ongoing educational study and specific levels of competency to verify expertise in their practice and skills. Any additional credentialing, society memberships and extra study are good signs to consider.

The American Board of Surgery Inc. is one regulatory agency that provides additional background checks, testing, initial certification and recertification for surgeons who wish to be considered in the upper level of competency.

The American College of Surgeons is another major association that has specific requirements of expertise and review before allowing surgeons membership and authorizing use of FACS behind their names.

Being certified by the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of The American College of Surgeons provides some additional reassurance of training, ability and character.

Experience is another very important consideration when choosing a surgeon or other physician. The longer a surgeon has been in practice and the more cases like yours that he or she deals with is significant because he can draw upon experience in dealing with subtle variations or differences with unusual situations or complications that may arise.

Stability in a practice location or community is important to note as physicians who move around a lot may do so for challenging reasons.

Showing respect, compassion, dedication and providing one with a true sense of wanting to listen and help are all excellent surgeon qualities and assist in building a trusting relationship with you.

It’s important for you to partner with your surgeon and write down your questions and not be afraid about asking the surgeon if he or she has handled cases like yours. Be upfront about your fears or level of understanding with issues.

Your surgeon should be pleased to provide you with his background information, training, society memberships and take time to answer your questions so you feel comfortable with him or her and how your situation will be managed.

Ask your doctor, your friends and others who have been treated by your prospective surgeon. But, above all, ask your surgeon about his or her qualifications and experience.

Remember, it’s your decision, you do have a choice!

Dr. Terry Gueldner is a board-certified surgeon and founder of the Wisconsin Vein Center, Manitowoc.

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