Following a year with unprecedented clinical demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of career roles in health care are experiencing immense growth and present a strong career outlook moving forward. Health care career professionals in these positions play an important role in the care of patients across the country, who rely on them…
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How to Become a Urologist
Alternate Career Titles:
Urologist Job Description: Urologists are responsible for treating patients with genitourinary tract or adrenal gland health issue
Urologist Salary (Annual): $252,040
Urologist Salary Range: Up to $422,921
How Long To Become a Urologist: 13 years
Urologist Requirements: Doctor of Medicine Degree
Become a Urologist
A Urologist is a Medical Doctor responsible for treating patients with disorders of the genitourinary tract, adrenal glands, female pelvic floor muscles and male reproductive system. Many Urologists work in private practice as sole owners or as part of a group practice. Some Urologists will also work in hospital or educational settings alongside other Surgeons.
These specialty Physicians will examine patients, and formulate diagnosis and treatment plans. Necessary interventions may include both minimally invasive office procedures or major surgical operations. Interventions performed by Urologists include removing a blockage within the urinary tract, treatment of a recurrent bladder infection, taking a post-void residual urine test and performing uro-dynamic testing.
In addition to interventions, all Urologists must maintain detailed health records, participate in departmental activities and potentially manage the business aspects of their practice. Do note that there is are significant variations in clinical practice within this career.
“A urology career is a good balance of surgery, office work and ever-changing technology,” Jeffrey R. Thrill, MD, a Urologist practicing in Orlando, Florida, said. “We treat patients of all ages and with either benign and cancerous conditions. Most urologic issues are treatable or manageable, and often Urologists will follow patients for decades and develop close relationships with them, just like a Family Physician would.”
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Education & Training
To become a Urologist, learners must complete a Bachelor’s Degree in a related-science, followed by a Medical Degree (MD) from an accredited medical school (four years). The first two years of Medical School consist of a mixture of classroom and lab time. During this time students learn how to examine a patient after gaining an appreciation for the basics in core topics like anatomy, chemistry, pathology and pharmacology. The final year involves the direct experience of patient care through clinical rotations. At this point, students will also gain insight into the many different sub-specialties involved in healthcare.
After obtaining a medical degree, graduates must pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to become a Registered Doctor. They must then also complete a residency in urology to formally adopt the specialty practice. A residency involves one to two years of supervised general surgery rounds at a hospital followed by three to four years of urology-specific rounds. A fellowship, which is a one to two year specialty training program, may also be pursued following a residency to obtain even higher credentialing.
“I spent 4 years completing my undergraduate degree, four years in medical school, five years as a urology resident and one to two years completing a fellowship,” Thrill explained. “In order to match in urology, you need to be near the top of your medical school class. My residency looked at 250 applications and only took two residents.”
Clearly the competition is tough and the educational requirements extreme, so only those with a true passion for the urology field should consider this challenging career in healthcare.
The most effective way to advance in a career as a Genitourinary Physician is to open a private practice. All Urologists must consistently pursue continued education to ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest technological and medical advancements. Therefore, continued education does not necessarily guarantee advancement, but rather helps a Urologist maintain their knowledge and skill set.
“To advance in a career as a Urologist, I would suggest first completing a fellowship and starting a residency program,” Thrill advised. “Doing research in an office or hospital can also help, as would volunteering to serve on hospital committees. Professionals should also consider joining state and local societies.”
Experience & Skills
To be successful as a Urologist, professionals must possess strong attention-to-detail and have the ability to problem solve. These skills assist a Urologist when they are listening to patient concerns, conducting an examination and determining a diagnosis.
“Urologists need to have a ‘presence’ when dealing with patients and families,” Thrill explained. “They need to be able to relate to babies as well as 100-year-olds. They must also be able to articulate short-term and long-term treatment plans to challenging patients.”
First-and-foremost, a professional who is determined to become a Urologist should be passionate about learning. This is because advancements in medicine and technology are constantly impacting practice in this field. As continued education is required in this career, a love of learning becomes increasingly important in this role. Furthermore, Urologists need to be able to offer compassion and make patients feel comfortable – even when talking about “embarrassing” topics.
“Urology is an ‘intimate’ specialty, so this surgical career requires empathy and compassion,” Thrill stressed. “Being outgoing and funny also helps when relating to patients.”
Employment as a Urologist can mean long and irregular work hours. However, these professionals normally work only two to four days per week. Genitourinary Physicians typically see between 50 and 100 patients per week. Aside from regularly seeing patients, a Urologist’s workday will vary greatly depending upon whether they are scheduled to be in the operating room. Days spent in the operating room tend to be longer.
“Usually half of my day is spent in surgery, and the other half in the office,” Thrill said. “Sometimes I will be given big cases, and other times perform office procedures. Occasionally I will also take emergency room calls.”
Thrill explained that during any given week, he may also be called to the emergency room to treat a number of serious conditions. Treatments can involve placing catheters for blocked urinary tracts, treating testicular torsions or helping patients with kidney stones.
“A lot of consults can wait until the end of the day or next day for a procedure,” Thrill noted.
Employment for surgeons, such as Urologists, is expected to grow 7 percent over the next decade. The majority of Urologists are employed within clinics, outpatient centers or hospitals, or have their own private practice. However, Urologists can also find employment through academic settings or research facilities.
“There are so many opportunities for employment in urology right now. I would suggest that a professional choose their practice location wisely,” Thrill recommended. “There are more openings in rural areas than in places like San Diego or Hawaii.”
A career as a Urologist is one of the most lucrative medical specialties, and the median annual wage in this career is $252,040. Most commonly, a Urologist will make up to $422,921 per year.
“In healthcare, there are only a few specialties that pay more than urology,” Thrill explained. “These specialties would include orthopedic, cardiac, dermatology and some oncology careers.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The American Urological Association (AUA) is an organization designed to promote the highest standards of urological practice and care. The organization seeks to achieve this goal through research and the formulation of health care policy.
- Enroll in an undergraduate degree program
- Study hard and get good grades
- Volunteer in healthcare
- Apply to medical school
- Find a mentor
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Jeffrey R. Thrill, MD
Practice: Orlando Health
Location: Orlando, FL
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“The single biggest suggestion I would offer is to pursue this career without regrets.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“The biggest mistake some professionals make is entering this career when their personality does not match the specialty.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“People should ask about how quickly the profession can change due to advancing technology.”
Why did you choose to become a Urologist?
“I chose to become a Urologist because of the good balance of office and surgery. Many Urologists will practice into their 70’s because there is a low burnout rate in this specialty.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would it be?
Credentialing Organization: The American Board of Urology