How to become an OB/GYN doctor: 7 things you should know
Written by MedStudy
- OB/GYN doctors are specialists in women’s health. Obstetrical care includes providing routine pregnancy care, managing high-risk pregnancies, and delivering babies.
- The training and education to become an OB/GYN doctor typically takes around 14-15 years. Including, undergrad, medical school, an OB/GYN residency, and optional fellowship to subspecialize.
- Being an OB/GYN doctor can be a highly rewarding career! It offers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of patients by providing essential health care to patients during their journeys of pregnancy and childbirth.
- The journey to becoming an OB/GYN doctor can be challenging, as it can be competitive to match into residency and can be hard to find a healthy work/life balance.
- According to Salary.com, OB/GYN doctors in the U.S. make $308,701 per year on average.
After countless hours of studying and hard work throughout your undergrad and med school years, the moment has arrived for you to make a pivotal decision. Perhaps the most significant one yet: which specialty do should you pursue?
To provide you with comprehensive information about various specialties, we have conducted interviews with board-certified physicians who graciously share insights about their professional journeys. In this article, we'll cover 7 things you should know about how to become an OB/GYN doctor.
For a detailed interview with Kaci L. Durbin, MD, please visit the "OB/GYN: Career Focus" section within your Medical Student Core.
1. What does an OB/GYN doctor do?
Obstetrician-gynecologists (OB/GYNs) are specialists in women’s health. The field is filled with variety. Obstetrical care includes providing routine pregnancy care, managing high-risk pregnancies, and delivering babies. Physicians in this field also perform and interpret obstetrical ultrasounds.
Gynecologic care is broad, spanning from pediatric and adolescent gynecology to menopausal issues. OB/GYNs manage abnormal vaginal bleeding and gynecologic infections, and they counsel patients on numerous issues, such as contraception, infertility, and disease prevention. They also diagnose cervical cancer, uterine cancer, and even breast cancer. Finally, OB/GYNs perform a multitude of surgeries, including hysterectomies, laparoscopies, dilation and curettages, hysteroscopies, and more.
2. How do I become an OB/GYN doctor?
The training and education to become an OB/GYN doctor typically takes around 14-15 years. To become an OB/GYN, you must first complete a Bachelor's degree, 4 years of medical school, and a 4-year residency for OB/GYNs. If you choose to specialize further, most of the subspecialties require another 2–3 years of fellowship training after residency.
Steps to become an OB/GYN doctor:
- Complete a Bachelor's degree (4 years)
- Attend medical school and earn a medical degree (4 years)
- Complete a residency in OB/GYN (4 years)
- Optional additional fellowship to subspecialize (2-3 year)
After completing your OB/GYN residency, there are a variety of further subspecialty fellowship options available.
Of course, the amount of time can vary depending on your individual circumstances, like how many years you take to complete medical school or the length of the fellowship training.
3. What subspecialty options exist for an OB/GYN doctor?
Many subspecialties exist within obstetrics and gynecology. A physician can choose to be a maternal-fetal medicine obstetrician and take care of high-risk patients. Gynecologic subspecialties include urogynecology (e.g., taking care of urinary incontinence and uterovaginal prolapse), reproductive endocrinology and infertility, gynecologic oncology, minimally-invasive surgery (focusing on robotics and laparoscopy), and pediatric/adolescent gynecology.
OB/GYN physicians can also choose to become hospitalists or laborists, taking care of inpatient obstetrical and gynecologic patients only (without office hours).
4. Is being an OB/GYN doctor a rewarding career?
Being an OB/GYN doctor can be a highly rewarding career! It offers the opportunity to make a positive impact on the lives of patients by providing essential health care to patients during their journeys of pregnancy and childbirth. And, establishing long-term relationships with patients can add depth to the care provided.
The field of obstetrics and gynecology offers a diverse range of medical scenarios, including surgeries, deliveries, reproductive health care, and preventive care, so you'll always be intellectually stimulated with a variety of cases! Witnessing births and supporting patients during significant life events can bring emotional fulfillment, too. While the profession has its challenges, the rewards make being an OB/GYN doctor a fulfilling choice for many.
But, don't just take it from us, we interviewed Kaci L. Durbin, MD about the realieites of being an OB/GYN doctor, here's why she chose to become an OB/GYN doctor, and what she loves about it.
"I chose obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) because it was the only specialty that allowed me to have both a long-term relationship with a patient and the ability to perform surgery. I liked the idea of following a person and her family for years and really getting to know her. However, most surgical specialties see patients for an acute issue only. With OB/GYN, I get to do both. I also liked that my days were always different. In the office, an OB/GYN sees everything from pregnancy visits to menopausal care to abnormal vaginal bleeding. I also loved delivering babies! After my first delivery as a medical student, I knew I didn’t want to do anything else." - Kaci L. Durbin, MD
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5. Is it hard to become an OB/GYN doctor?
Like we outlined above, it takes some dedication to become an OB/GYN doctor! It requires extensive education and a time commitment to become a full fledged OB/GYN. Most find medical school and OB/GYN residency to be quite demanding, with long hours of studying, many medical school and board exams, and rigorous clinical experience requirements. It is also a highly competitive residency to match into, programs will be looking for those who excel academically, have competitive Step 2 exam scores and med school grades, and strong recommendations.
Achieving a work-life balance can be challenging for OB/GYN doctors, particularly during residency and early in their careers. The demanding workload and irregular hours may limit personal time and self-care.
Despite the challenges, many OB/GYN doctors find great fulfillment in their careers due to everything we mentioned above. So, it will be some give and take! We asked Dr. Durbin what she dislikes the most about her specialty and here's what she said.
The hours! Babies come at all hours of the night and all days of the week. - Kaci L. Durbin, MD
6. What personality types generally excel within obstetrics and gynecology?
Of course, it's not one size fits all, there can be lots of characteristics and strengths that will make an awesome OB/GYN doctor, but here are a few that stand out to us! The first is empathy and compassion, OB/GYN doctors interact with patients at very personal in their lives. Showing compassion toward patients and their emotions helps in building trust and a strong doctor-patient bond.
Another is resilience and emotional stability. It's likely that you will encounter patients dealing with pregnancy complications, fertility struggles or other sensitive topics. Having the ability to cope with stress is important for maintaining one's own well-being while providing compassionate care to patients.
Here's what Dr. Durbin had to say about it.
To succeed in obstetrics and gynecology, a physician must be able to make quick decisions and work well under pressure. Fast thinking is required during labor and during surgery. The ability to multitask is also important. Many obstetricians are managing an office, seeing patients, answering calls and running back and forth to the hospital. Finally, I think most physicians that enter this field can be described as trustworthy and are good at making people feel at ease. - Kaci L. Durbin, MD
7. What's the average salary of an OB/GYN doctor?
According to Salary.com, OB/GYN doctors in the U.S. make $308,701 per year on average.
Each section in the Medical Student Core features a Career Focus section that outlines the details of a career in that specialty. You'll see an overview of the specialty as well as an interview with a specialist about their chosen field. Each of these paint a clear picture of what your future holds should you venture down that path.
Start studying with the Medical Student Core now to see the entire Obstetrics and Gynecology Career Focus section.
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