What is a proctologist? What does a proctologist do? And what kind of doctor does a colonoscopy? How to become an excellent proctologist? Read on to learn about this job.
Let’s be serious; proctology is no laughing matter.
Physical inactivity, unhealthy eating habits, and sedentary behaviors among millennials are causing them rectal problems.
Therefore, proctology, or colorectal surgery, is becoming a more demanding surgical subspecialty.
If you are about to study medicine or currently in a medical school and have not chosen your specialty yet, we recommend you to look for the job of a Proctologist.
What Is A Proctologist?
What to know about being a proctologist. Source: Advanced Surgical Associates
A proctologist may also be known as a colorectal surgeon” or a “colon and rectal surgeon”. This highly specialized medical doctor offers diagnostic and treatment for the lower digestive tract disorders, including the colon, rectum, and anus.
Proctologists perform a wide range of procedures and treatments and expertise on each side of the urogenital diaphragm.
Being a proctologist allows you to impact lives suffering from conditions that are mostly hard to discuss.
What type of problems do proctologists treat? Source: Unsplash
What Type Of Problems Do Proctologists Treat?
- Hemorrhoids: abnormal distensions of the vascular structures in the anus.
- Anal fissures: cracks or tears in the skin around the anus, which then cuts or tears the anus and anal canal tissue.
- Abscesses: a collection of pus. It is formed due to an infection in glands or skin or any tissue in the body.
- Anal fistulas: an infection in a mucus-secreting gland in the anal canal around the anus.
- Anal skin tags: an excess growth of skin around the anus.
- Diverticulitis: when pouches (diverticula) form in the colon wall and get inflamed or infected, it is called diverticulitis.
- Rectal prolapse: a condition in which the rectum (the lower end of the colon, located just above the anus) becomes stretched out and protrudes out of the anus.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is characterized by an irritated gut defined by alternative bouts of constipation and multiple loose stools a day.
- Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): inflammation of the large bowel disease commonly known as Ulcerative Colitis.
- Colon polyps: a growth on the lining of the colon or rectum.
- Colon, rectal and anal cancers: are often identified together as they have many similarities in symptoms, conditions, and treatment options. It usually starts as polyps in the inner lining of the colon or rectum.
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the anal area such as:
- Chlamydia: a STI caused by a bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis, people who have chlamydia often suffer from rectal pain, discharge, and/or bleeding.
- Syphilis: a sexually transmitted bacterial infection caused by a spirochaete.
- Gonorrhea: a STI caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae and highly contagious but often has no symptoms.
- Anal herpes: an infection of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that occurs in or around the anus.
Proctologists perform several types of diagnostic and treatment procedures. Source: Pexels
What Does A Proctologist Do?
Proctologists perform several types of diagnostic and treatment procedures, in addition to surgeries.
They use instruments to examine the rectum and colon and perform treatment on the colorectal passage of the patients. Here are some common procedures:
- Digital rectal exam: a test that examines the rectum, pelvis, and lower belly with a gloved finger.
- Endorectal ultrasound: a medical test to find tumors in the rectum.
- Anoscopy: identify an abnormality in the anus and rectum with an anoscope.
- Proctoscopy: examine the anal cavity, rectum, or sigmoid colon with a proctoscope.
- Sigmoidoscopy: examine the large intestine from the rectum through the nearest part of the colon, the sigmoid colon.
- Surgery: Surgery may be performed against ulcerative colitis, curing the disease and removing the risk of colon cancer.
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How Much Does A Proctologist Make?
The average payment a proctologist receives is $459,710/year and $221/hour in the US.
The average salary range for a Proctologist is between $294,166 and $653,806.
The rural areas may have an increased need for a proctologist. North Dakota, for example, offers multiple jobs for these surgeons due to a shortage of skilled doctors.
However, salary ranges can vary widely depending on many crucial factors, including education, certifications, additional skills, the number of years you have spent in your profession.
Salary Potential of a proctologist. Source: Erieri.com
How To Become A Proctologist?
To become a colorectal surgeon, you must first complete medical school. Then you learn to work as a general surgeon, which can take up to five years in a surgical residency after medical school.
Here you will learn how to do all sorts of surgeries, including gallbladder surgery, hernia surgery, breast surgery, and even vascular surgery.
Then, you do an extra year of specialized surgical training in colon and rectal surgery to become an expert in colon, rectum, and anus surgery. You should be able to do everything from hemorrhoids and anal fistulas to colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diverticulitis, and pelvic floor disorders.
During that time, you also learn to perform colonoscopy and endoluminal procedures. Many colorectal surgeons practice both general surgery and colorectal surgery, and some choose to specialize only in colorectal surgery, despite being board certified in both.
How to become a proctologist. Source: Pexel
How To Get A Proctology Residency Program
Medical school does not make a doctor!
Residency program does because that is where you learn to be an independent actor who (literally) makes life and death decisions.
In the US, to become a specialized medical doctor, you must do a residency unless you are willing to see patients without billing for insurance. Most hospitals are sticklers about being at least board eligible, which requires completion of a residency.
Here are a few things to notice if you want to land a proctology residency program!
Having Good Scores
Grades are crucial in medical school because it’s a determining factor on whether you get to stay in medical school, retake a subject or transfer.
However, nowadays, many US medical schools work on a pass/fail grading system to reduce student stress and anxiety.
Grades, AOA membership, and other comparative indices do have some gravitas. Still, the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) scores probably play a big role at this point as it often predicts success in various specialties.
The best part about medicine is you never stop learning. As technology continues to evolve, disease processes and what we know about them continue to evolve.
Therefore, it’s essential to show that you’re a successful learner, as lifelong learning through continuing education requirements is an inherent part of being a doctor.
A Thoughtful Personal Statement
If you want to maximize the odds of getting matched to your dream proctology residency program, start crafting powerful admission documents right away.
One of them is the personal statement.
A good personal essay will show the committee members why you are the best fit for their program and what you will achieve after participating. This paper will reflect your competence, including your strongest skills and achievements related to the chosen program. And here, you will be able to show your career goals. So you must keep close attention when you create this paper if you want to achieve the desired position.
A great personal statement is often the unique one, contains all essential and attractive information about your expertise and yourself.
Excellent Letters Of Recommendation
When you’re about to apply for any medical program, one of the first things you have to pay attention to is submitting a compelling letter of recommendation for medical residency. Along with your personal statement, it’s a critical document that lets your potential reviewers understand how skilled and prepared you are for the chosen residency.
A well-written letter of Recommendation can guarantee you a place in the medical school of your dream, as it’s essential to have good recommendations from a qualified writer to increase your chances of acceptance.
There’s a standardized letter of recommendation called a SLOE that many emergency medicine residency programs take highly into consideration.
Skills And Experience Relevant To The Specialty
Lastly, your skills or expertise in a particular area plays the most prominent role. For academic programs or certain specialties, research is a must. Meanwhile, dexterity skills are crucial to surgical programs.
As a proctologist, you should start in the communities. This experience will sharpen your medical knowledge and skills while making a good contribution to public healthcare. That is why you see a lot of major colorectal training programs are community-based clinics (Asher Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Lahey Clinic).
Skills And Experience Relevant To The Specialty. Source: Pexel
Find A Mentor
Proctologists’ common advice to premeds or medical students when getting started on the proctology journey is to find a mentor. Try to find someone that can sit down with you and give you some guidance.
You can also read books or listen to a podcast such as the famous podcast Behind the Knife.
The information is out there, and you have to have fundamental basic knowledge. But there’s nothing that surpasses references and the ability to have somebody guide you through all the process.
Common Myths About Proctologist
Is A Proctologist Ever Grossed Out During A Surgery?
It’s never particularly pleasing to have someone operating your rectal and colon areas, so most patients have had either bowel preparation or an enema before their surgery. Problems like hemorrhoids, fistula, growths become quite normal to proctologists. It is literally their job to help without judgment.
Is a proctologist ever grossed out during a surgery? Source: Hedgeye
Do A Proctologist And A Gastroenterologist Do The Same Job?
Quick question: What kind of doctor does a colonoscopy? Proctologist or Gastroenterologist?
Our answer is Gastroenterologist!
Many people still confuse the specialty of a gastroenterologist and a proctologist.
Even though both of them deal with gastrointestinal issues, proctologists are different from gastroenterologists.
- Proctologists are trained in general surgery and colon & rectal surgery, while gastroenterologists are trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology.
- Next, proctologists expertise in issues related to the colon, rectum, and anus, while gastroenterologists medically treat stomach, pancreas, liver disease.
- Proctologists perform surgery; gastroenterologists do not.
- Colorectal Surgeons receive surgery referrals from gastroenterologists when the condition is too bad.
- Colorectal Surgeons are referred gastroenterology patients after cancer has been identified through a colonoscopy to remove the tumor(s)
Why Become A Proctologist When You Have To Worry About People’s Feces?
Every problem can be easy to face if we approach them from a scientific perspective.
Many physicians are intellectually fascinated by the complexities of the human digestive system. They may actually have a visceral fascination with the human rectum and everything associated with it.
Or they may want a high-paying specialty that doesn’t have much competition because a lot of doctors are hesitant to take it on.
However, the fact is all doctors have to get used to dealing with fluid and byproduct the human body produces. They just have to accept the nature of human biologies and keep doing their jobs, day in and day out.
Proctologists accept the realities of human biologies. Source: Unsplash
Do Other Surgeons Look Down On Colorectal Surgeons?
Yeah! They do! Tall surgeons often look down on short surgeons, but only when they are standing?
Proctologists might work with a sensitive area of human bodies where many people would say Yuck!. However, this area is equally important as other areas in the body. Given that nowadays, more people are having digestive problems due to inactive and unhealthy lifestyles.
Every physician and person in the hospital is crucial- the people that clean the operating rooms and sterilize the dirty tools and trays are vitally important. So the answer is No!
Traits That Lead To Becoming A Good Colorectal Surgeon
Have Exceptional Fine-motor Skills
First and foremost, good proctologists need to have good hands. Oftentimes, they take a holistic approach to examining patients and often try less-invasive techniques, such as injection therapy for hemorrhoids, before performing surgery. They also sometimes perform the osteopathic manipulative treatment. Therefore, high-qualified proctologists should be able to handle the colonoscope and perform those procedures fluently.
Board certification is a strong indicator of a physician’s qualifications. The American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery offers certification for colorectal surgeons. You can search for your surgeon’s certification on the board’s website.
To achieve certification, you must complete five years of general surgical training and one year in colon and rectal surgery and pass rigorous examinations.
You must also keep up with developments in your field, such as new technologies, treatments, and surgical approaches. Right now, researchers are pushing the limits of endoscopic therapies for different types of diseases and minimally invasive surgery.
Besides, you also should take a recertification examination every 10 years while meeting other maintenance-of-certification requirements at regular intervals.
Have Utmost Sensitivity And Compassion
Patients who see proctologists often have issues of a highly personal nature, such as incontinence, fissures, and sexual diseases.
Patients may not even tell their spouses or close people about what’s going on with them.
If the arm itched or bled, he or she could look at it. But it is almost impossible to look at that part of the body. Thus, patients put so much trust in you.
Within five minutes of discussing with your patients, you will require them to pull down their pants and lie down. That can make them feel embarrassed or anxious. And in all of those aspects, you should be able to reassure them and establish a patient rapport right away.
Make them understand that many people experience the same type of symptoms they’re experiencing. And it is okay to feel weird.
Let them know you take their symptoms seriously and that you’re going to walk them through the process.
Proctologists should have utmost sensitivity and compassion. Source: burst.shopify
Educate The Patient
Many proctologists don’t feel it pertinent for the patients to understand their condition and keep doing “black box” treatment. Great physicians explain to the patients their medical conditions in detail and answer their questions attentively. Thereby, it helps the patient become fully invested in their recovery path and less anxious or embarrassed about their situations.
Challenges Of Becoming A Proctologist
There are many challenges that most people aren’t aware of until they become a proctologist. Even though proctologists are genuinely interested in helping people, this job can get more complicated over time.
Stress, Burnout, And Lack Of Work-life Balance
Though their missions are saving lives, hospitals also have to make profits. This can sometimes result in seeing and taking care of 20–30 patients in a day! The brainpower and physical energy to do this day in and day out is a lot. Therefore, proctologists can easily get burned out and depressed. They can have a tough time balancing work and private life.
Proctologists get stressed out due to excessive work. Source: Unsplash
Excess Of Administrative Work
It is estimated that for every hour with patients, physicians do about 2 hours of charting. No one expects to get into medicine to deal with administrative tasks, and proctologists genuinely enjoy being around patients but get burned out with the side work they have to do
The medical procedures that proctologists perform require them to stand on their feet most of the time, averaging from 40-60 hour work weeks. This leads to unwanted aching foot pains throughout the day.
Being a doctor means you will need an extensive skill set. One of them is persuasion. As a proctologist, you will deal with an area that is sensitive and personal to many patients. It is easy they would get panicked, irritated, and in pain. Often enough, you’ll have to attend to a patient who is completely disrespectful of the proposed treatment and advice they have been given. Not only does this take time, but it also gives you headaches as you are trying to support them as much as possible. Uncooperative and ungrateful sentiments from patients and their relatives are on the top of many physicians’ frustrations list.
Lack Of Recognition And Reward
Salary doesn’t always compensate for the amount of stress in a proctologist’s life. Although they earn a good paycheck, there is a lot of burnout because sometimes they are way too busy to spend time enjoying their money or time with family and patients. Professions that make a lot aren’t always the happiest.
Patients are now demanding the same conveniences from doctors that they find daily services. As more clinics and urgent care centers are opening, private practices have to cater to patient demands.
Long Hours And Tremendous Debt
Medical students graduate with an average of $200000 in debt that takes a long time to pay off and need to complete up to 9–10 years of training after medical school before earning enough to pay it off. By that time, most people have families and other responsibilities. A lot of proctologists see friends in other professions like a business who graduate and make a lot of money and lead comfortable lives when they just start earning paychecks. It can be a very challenging road.
Challenges of medical students. Source: Burst. Shopify
Long ago, many university centers felt general surgeons could do it all and didn’t need a colorectal surgeon. As medicine has changed as well as life in general, they have found there is a call for subspecialists.
The subspecialization has become a bit more prominent. And as colorectal surgery has really taken off and now found a niche, not only in the community but also in major academic centers, now opportunities are everywhere.
Even though there are tough challenges of being a proctologist, and a physician in general, it for sure cannot surpass the happiness of contributing to society and saving people’s lives.
We hope that this article has provided you with more insights into ”what is a proctologist”, ”what does a proctologist do”. And you will have more courage to go for this career if you are thinking about it!
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