If you decide that urology is your calling, you have a long, but rewarding path ahead. Anyone who’s ever had to pass a stubborn kidney stone knows how much of a life-savior an experienced urologist can be. In this article, we’ll delve into what it means to be a urologist and what you can expect on your path to becoming one.
Just like with every branch of medicine, it takes time and patience to become a licensed urologist, and there are some things you should know before you start. Let’s take a closer look at what urology encompasses and some details you’ll need to get started.
What does a urologist do?
Just like their title hints, a urologist takes special interest in the urinary tract (kidneys, bladder, urethra). They’re also the person to go to when it comes to treating conditions of the male reproductive system.
Related: Why is urology so competitive?
Urologists are surgeons, and while some may choose to spend most of their time in the operating room, others opt for clinical medicine within a community. It’s recommended to spend some time doing both because it will allow you to gain much-needed experience and develop your skills.
In your practice, you will be treating a wide variety of illnesses and conditions, from UTIs and urinary incontinence to erectile dysfunction, kidney transplants, and tumors. This means that your range of skills should vary from recommending preventive products to having difficult conversations with your patients about surgery and chemotherapy.
As you prepare yourself to start your journey to become a urologist, here are some things you should take into consideration.
The Length of Your Education
It’s no secret that becoming a doctor in whatever specialty is a long process, and this is the case with urology as well. Education that leads to becoming a certified urologist can last 12 or more years. This includes 4 years of college education with a pre-medical specialization and/or a bachelor’s degree in natural sciences that will support your further medical training.
After that, you’ll need to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and choose a medical school you want to apply for. You’ll spend the next 4 years earning your M.D. or D.O. degree, followed by 4-5 years of residency in a hospital you’re matched with.
Additionally, you can choose to do a fellowship that can last up to 3 years, which lets you further specialize in a subspecialty of urology you’d like to work in. Speaking of which…
A lot of your education will focus on the ins and out of the urinary and genitourinary tract, and urology subspecialties allow you to hone in on the type of expertise you’d like to have. This is what residency and fellowships are for – to help you better understand what kind of urologist you’d like to be. These include:
- Urinary Calculi (Kidney Stones)
- Renal Transplant (Kidney Transplant)
- Female Urology
- Urologic Oncology
- Male Infertility
- Pediatric Urology
Each of these subspecialties requires additional education that could take anywhere from 3-5 years before you can be considered a certified specialist. That’s why it’s important to have a good idea of what you’d like to focus on sooner rather than later.
The Decision between Research and Clinic
Do you want your work to be based on academic research or do you prefer having more contact with your patients and working in the operating room? You can focus on scientific research and teaching to-be urologists or you can dedicate your time to hands-on work in surgeries and clinics. You can also choose to do both, splitting your time between the two before you make your decision.
Being Board-Certified Opens Doors
You can get a board certification from:
- American Urological Association (AUA)
- American Board of Urology (ABU)
- American College of Surgeons (ACS)
Bear in mind that each of these has special requirements you should take into consideration before deciding which board certification you want.
Your Interpersonal Skills Need to Be Sharp
A big part of your job as a urologist is communicating with your patients and the staff. There’s no overstating how important it is for your communication skills to be on point. The same goes for other soft skills like being able to connect with your patients to make your job and their recovery easier.
Quick thinking and decision-making are invaluable in urgent situations. You’ll develop these skills during your residency, but it’s always a good idea to keep working on them throughout your practice.
Being a physician is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding jobs you can have, and urology is no exception. While your work schedule can be hectic in the beginning, as you settle into your role, your work hours will become more stable, you’ll have a better income, and maybe even open your own private practice.
Born and raised in the UK, Will went into medicine late (31) after a career in journalism. He’s into football (soccer), learned Spanish after 5 years in Spain, and has had his work published all over the web. Read more.