A cardiac surgeon is a highly trained, licensed medical professional who performs various surgical procedures on human hearts. Assisted by other surgeons and nurses, he or she uses precision tools and robotic equipment to execute delicate operations. A cardiac surgeon usually performs operations by appointment, though he or she may be required to perform immediate, emergency surgeries in life threatening situations. Most surgeons are employed by large general hospitals and heart health centers, though some find work in private surgical offices.
Surgeons operate on people with various birth defects and those who have developed heart problems due to age, diet, cancer, or disease. He or she may conduct screening tests to determine the presence of physical abnormalities or functional problems, consult the patient and other physicians about the findings, and decide if invasive surgery is necessary. The cardiac surgeon conducts operations with great care, ensuring the safety of the patient to the best of his or her ability. After a procedure, the surgeon and operating room nurses often monitor the patient's vital signs and overall condition for a certain period of time, to ensure that the surgery was successful.
Some cardiac surgeons specialize with certain types of patients or procedures. A pediatric cardiac surgeon, for example, operates primarily on infants, children, and teenagers. He or she must have very specialized knowledge about the developing hearts and organs of young people. Another surgeon may choose to specialize in a special type of operation, such as open heart surgery or heart transplants. Some professionals have extensive knowledge of artificial hearts, pacemakers, and other implants.
To become a cardiac surgeon, a person must receive a bachelor's degree, usually in pre-medical studies, complete a four-year doctoral program at an accredited medical school, complete a yearlong internship at a hospital, and assume a seven to ten year residency. The last two to three years of a new surgeon's residency are dedicated exclusively to conducting supervised heart surgeries and related procedures. Upon completion of a residency, a new cardiac surgeon must take an extensive licensing exam administered by a nationally recognized governing organization.
Technological advances in medical technology and surgical procedures requires cardiac surgeons to engage in continuing education and stay up to date on medical news and journals. With a growing population of elderly citizens and the prevalence of new diseases and cancers, there is a strong demand for knowledgeable surgeons. Those with extensive computer expertise are in especially high demand, as many pieces of modern screening and operative machinery require surgeons to program equipment and interpret data.