How to Find the Right Plastic Surgeon
Finding the “right” plastic surgeon is not as easy as one might think. While many doctors may call themselves plastic or cosmetic surgeons, there are only about 8000 plastic surgeons that are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery in the United States. Board certification by the American Board of Plastic Surgery does not mean that the surgeon is better or more competent than anyone else. It means that the surgeon, at the very least, has had the appropriate training in Plastic Surgery. This includes completing an accredited plastic surgery residency training program and successfully passing a multitude of testing and credentialing requirements of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. This certification should be a minimum requirement for anyone beginning their search for a plastic surgeon.
Another important criterion to look at our hospital affiliations. Having hospital privileges is essential to be able to take care of patients if they have any type of complication after surgery. Ask your prospective surgeon if he has hospital privileges. A surgeon without hospital privileges cannot take care of patients in a given hospital. Hospital privileges also ensure that the surgeon has been vetted by the hospital to have the training to do the procedures that plastic surgeons do. Similarly, the location where the surgeon does his surgeries is of paramount importance. Safety is one of the most important aspects of choosing a plastic surgeon and the ability to deal with an emergency in the operating room is something that should not be compromised. Hospitals and accredited outpatient surgery centers have significantly more safety requirements and oversight than clinics or offices.
One of the most important aspects of medicine is the doctor-patient interaction, this is particularly true in plastic surgery. Who is doing the patient interview and/or examination…is it the plastic surgeon himself or is it a surgery coordinator? The consultation is the most critical time a patient can express their desires and wishes, and the surgeon can communicate what best options are available. Who does the patient see in follow-up appointments…do they see the surgeon or a medical assistant? Post-operative care is not simply about removing stitches or changing dressings—it involves seeing and understanding how the wounds are healing and whether any additional measures are necessary to improve the ultimate result. Who answers emergency calls at night, is it a nurse/physician’s assistant or the plastic surgeon himself?
Of course, referrals are also important. The best referrals are those from other patients who have been operated on and taken care of by the surgeon you are considering. Referrals from nurses in the operating room or from other doctors can also be helpful. Practices that rely on advertising should, in general, be avoided.
There is no substitute for experience. It takes years of practice to master the craft of plastic surgery. The practice of medicine is the result of accumulating a lifetime of experiences by a doctor…the same holds true for the practice of plastic surgery. Knowing which operation(s) is (are) best for a patient, when to operate, and how to manage complications is something that only comes with time.
At the end of the day, after addressing these issues, you should be comfortable with your surgeon. If you have done the above and are comfortable, you have probably found the plastic surgeon that is “right” for you.