This is a very personal decision but one most critical to your safety and eventual outcome.
I wish every patient could have access to the knowledge of the nurses we work with on the ward and in operating theatres as they have seen it all – the surgeons, their manner and technical ability. They know who they would want as a surgeon.
Most people know a surgeon by word of mouth and that isn’t too bad a starting point, but even so, you should check credentials. Unfortunately, in most Australian States including New South Wales, even doctors with the most basic University Medical degree can choose to call themselves a ‘surgeon’.
Firstly, check credentials and training thoroughly. Here are THREE basic essentials:
1. AHPRA – Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
It is a legal requirement that if you are a medical practitioner in Australia, that you are registered with AHPRA. On AHPRA’s website, you can check if:
a) someone is a medical practitioner and more importantly
b) that they have recognised Specialist qualification. Those who have a General registration only, have their medical degree from University but are not recognised specialists by AHPRA or the AMC (Australian Medical Council)
Check whether your surgeon is a recognised specialist here
2. FRACS – Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons is the Australian Government’s designated body to train Surgeons in Australia.
These letters F.R.A.C.S found after a doctor’s name are essential to ensure your Surgeon has passed all the many necessary years and examinations required to hold a Specialist title (be it a Cardiac Surgeon, Neurosurgeon, Plastic Surgeon, etc). It also means that your Surgeon is complying with the Continuing Professional Development program of the College ensuring your Surgeon is up to date with their skills and knowledge.
Some doctors who call themselves ‘surgeon’ in their title may use letters very similar to F.R.A.C.S at first glance so check your letters well!
To check whether a surgeon is a Recognised Specialist Surgeon by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) and a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS), click here.
Also – Beware the ideology of the name ‘College’ can be misleading as any group of medical professionals can create it’s own board and register a business name as a ‘College’. The College for training Specialist Surgeons as recognised by the AMC in Australia is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons.
3. Member of ASPS – The Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons
This is the only Society sanctioned by the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons to train Specialist Plastic Surgeons for the purposes of Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgery.
All Members of ASPS are bona fide Plastic Surgeons who are in full-time Plastic Surgery Practice. To reach this level requires a minimum of 12 years education and training plus completing necessary training terms, operation numbers, courses and examinations. In my mind, this difficult pathway to achieve the title Plastic Surgeon is essential (see My Path below).
Check here if your Plastic, Reconstructive and Cosmetic Surgeon is a member of ASPS