First Year Trainee Headcount*
Advanced Trainee Headcount*
New College Fellow Headcount*
Specialist Headcount*
Median Age*
Headcount Over 65 Years Old*
*WA figures sourced from NHWDS & MET

Surgeons treat, diagnose, repair and resolve injuries, diseases and abnormalities by operating on patients. Surgeons are responsible for the peri-operative diagnosis of the patient, performing the operation, and the post-operative management of the patient.

General surgery focuses on having a wide range of knowledge and being able to provide expert treatment across a broad range of emergency and planned surgical procedures. General surgeons are trained to pursue a balance between subspecialty interests and generalist surgical practice.

Surgeons work across a variety of settings and regularly have multiple different commitments. Surgeons commonly work in the public setting, private practice, academic medicine, hospitals, ambulatory surgery settings, government service programs, and the uniformed services.

General surgery is one of nine surgical specialties a doctor can pursue after being admitted as a Fellow of RACS.
  • General surgery: covers a wide area with subspecialties such as breast surgery and gastrointestinal surgery and colorectal surgery
  • Cardiothoracic surgery: focuses on the heart, chest and lungs
  • Neurosurgery: deals with pathology of the brain and spinal cord
  • Orthopaedic surgery: involves diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of injuries, disorders and diseases of the body's bones and muscles
  • Otolaryngology head and neck surgery: ear, nose and throat surgery, often referred to as ENT
  • Paediatric surgery: encompasses all aspects of children's surgery
  • Plastic and reconstructive surgery: deals with reconstructive and reshaping surgery and burns in all parts of the body
  • Urology: deals with treatment of diseases in the urinary tract, including the bladder, kidneys and prostate
  • Vascular surgery: focuses on maintaining or restoring blood flow via arteries and veins all over the body.

General surgery is a field that requires:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Compassion and empathy
  • Manual dexterity skills
  • Endurance skills, for long surgical procedures
  • Intellectually stimulated and interested in field
  • Ability to work in a team environment, especially a multidisciplinary team
  • Concentration
  • Fast paced decision making and acute care skills in a surgical emergency
  • Ability to remain calm in surgical emergencies
  • On call requirements with varying level of on call depending on the field of surgery.
Why choose surgery

General Surgeons Australia (GSA) administer the General Surgery Education and Training (GSET) program. GSET is a five-year training program structured into stages, Core Training and Principal Training. To apply for the GSET you must first register with the Royal Australian College of Surgery (RACS) to ensure you meet the generic eligibility requirements (refer to RACS’ policy for further details). There is also a mandatory requirement that you successfully complete the Generic Surgical Science Examination (GSSE) prior to applying. Refer to GSA for the full selection process including eligibility criteria which can be found on their website.

Surgery is a very competitive program to get onto and it will likely take you a few attempts to get onto the training program. You need to commit early into the surgery career path and make sure you stay committed to the cause because there will be challenges but it’s well supported and rewarding.

You need to be aware that surgery is a demanding job where you will want to put in extra hours, particularly when you have operations coming up. You’re doing this not only to help prepare you get through your training but also because you want to do a good job and improve and do the right thing by your patient. The great thing is there will be very few days when you go home without learning something new.

You’ll have to do some research so it’s a good idea to find some research that you’re passionate about so you enjoy it. It engulfs your whole life and as with everything there are times when that’s fine because it’s enjoyable but other times it wears you down.

Although there are long hours and a lot of hard work, it is a privilege to do this job; it’s so rewarding when you get home at the end of the day and feel like you’ve made a difference in your patient’s lives, the surgery can be life changing, plus you get to work with some of the best surgeons in Perth.

There is now more awareness of the importance of work-life balance in recruiting and retaining doctors into surgical training and flexible training options are becoming increasingly available. There is some job share service registrar (general surgery) jobs available which is currently in its infancy but there is enthusiasm so it’s likely to take off. The College is learning lessons from the UK and their successful implementation of this.

Surgical training is hard work regardless and with a family there is obviously added challenges. The advice is to go in with your eyes open, a supportive partner and being honest with your work colleagues about inability to stay late some nights.

Managing the surgery training program while raising a family
Can you complete the surgery training program part-time?
How competitive is it to get into the surgery training program?
How do I get onto the surgery training program?
What's challenging about the training program?
What's great about the surgery training program?

General surgeons can work in the public sector, private sector and in rural, regional and metropolitan areas. Surgeons can work clinically, non-clinically, in academia, research and education, administration, and innovation.

The Royal Australian College of Surgeons published a paper called ‘Surgical Workforce Projection to 2025’ which gives some statistics around supply and demand.
Perth are pioneering some Australia-first operations and procedures for example doing a thyroid operation without leaving a scar on the neck. So, you could be at the cutting edge by choosing surgery as your career.

N.B. Career prospects are dependent on both the supply of specialists and the projected future demand for services provided by medical specialists (including general practitioners). The complex interplay of supply and demand is currently being modelled at both a state and national level and will be included when it's available.