How to Become an OB/Gyn Physician (Obstetrician / Gynecologist)

An Overview of a Career as a Gynecologist

Doctor checking blood pressure of pregnant woman
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Are you interested in becoming the type of doctor who, among many other important tasks, helps bring new life into the world? If so, becoming an ob/gyn physician may be the right career choice for you. You must also be able to invest the time, money, and years of hard work needed to become a practicing physician.

Obstetrics and Gynecology

The medical specialties of obstetrics and gynecology are often practiced together as they are closely related.

Obstetrics is the treatment of women during pregnancy, also known as prenatal care. Gynecology is the medical specialty which involves the health and well-being of the female reproductive organs, outside of pregnancy.

A physician who practices obstetrics and gynecology is known as an ob/gyn, or they may be referred to as simply an "O.B." or a gynecologist, even if their practice incorporates both of these aspects.

Typical Work Week

Ob/gyns divide their time between office visits and hospital work. Office visits may include prenatal checks, sonograms, pap smears and annual exams. Additionally, the ob/gyn may also perform a number of outpatient surgeries in the office.

In addition to the office practice, ob/gyn physicians also are delivering babies in the hospital, some of which may require Cesarean sections. The average is about 12 to 15 deliveries per month, but this can vary greatly. Ob/gyn physicians may also do other gynecological surgeries in the hospital as well.

As you can see, the schedule for ob/gyns can be very hectic, especially because of being on call for deliveries which can happen any time of the day or night, or weekends. Therefore, physicians in Ob/Gyn typically can expect to work a 50- to 60-hour workweek.

How to Become an Ob/Gyn Physician

Like all physicians, a career in obstetrics and gynecology requires an M.D.

or D.O. medical degree, plus residency training.

There are dozens of residency training programs nationwide. Ob/gyn residency programs require four years of training.

Further Sub-specialization

After residency, a physician may choose to do an optional fellowship to subspecialize in a number of other areas including:

  • Maternal Fetal Medicine
  • Reproductive Endocrinology
  • Uro-gynecology
  • Gynecological Oncology
  • Laborist

Compensation

Like other physicians, ob/gyn physicians may be self-employed owners of their own practice, partners in a group practice, or they may be employed by hospitals, clinics, government organizations or academic institutions.

The median income for an ob/gyn physician is $280,629, and the average overall income is about $302,000, according to the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Pros and Cons

When asked what they enjoy about practicing obstetrics and gynecology, physicians often tell me they really enjoy bringing new life into the world. One physician told me that she fell in love with obstetrics after witnessing and assisting in her first delivery, early in her career. She said that being the first human to hold another human in her own hands was an amazing feeling.

The flip side of that, however, is the often rigorous call schedule that can take you away from your family time or personal pursuits.

Another downside is the high liability that comes with delivering babies. One new trend that may help to alleviate the scheduling difficulty is the emergence of full-time "laborists" who are ob/gyns who practice solely the inpatient part of the specialty, allowing other ob/gyns to focus on the scheduled visits and procedures in the office.

If anything goes wrong during labor and delivery, it can be devastating, and the lives of the baby and the mother can be jeopardized. This liability results in higher malpractice insurance costs for many ob/gyn physicians, even those physicians who have a relatively clean practice record.

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