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Are surgeons different from physicians in Texas?

While surgeons are doctors, they function differently

In the middle of the interesting current debate on social media among physicians and healthcare providers over what they prefer to be called, I read an interesting comment from the surgeon.

Before I get to that, though, I should briefly address this debate.

What’s in a name in the health care industry?

Suffice it to say that we’re living in the most confusing time imaginable for consumers when it comes to knowing who’s actually providing their healthcare. Just because someone comes into a patient room in a white lab coat dangling a stethoscope and introduces himself or herself as “Dr. Smith” doesn’t mean the person is actually a physician.

Why? There’s an increasingly aggressive lobbying campaign by groups supporting mid-level providers, such as nurse practitioners, certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNAs), and physician assistants. They’re lobbying to have fully independent medical practices, unsupervised run tethered to a physician, despite the fact that they aren’t actually physicians.

Add to the confusion that these mid-level professions have introduced or are preparing to introduce doctoral-level positions in their fields. In other words, there are nurses, nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants with doctoral degrees, who are physicians.

In short, my advice is to make sure you know who’s treating you. If you are okay with having hospitalized or office care from a mid-level provider, then that’s great. The problem is when there’s a lack of transparency.

Back to surgeons and physicians

I read an interesting tweet from the surgeon who was commenting about the debate over healthcare nomenclature. He remarked about how he doesn’t correct people who call him a physician, despite the fact that he’s a surgeon.

While one could write a whole article about how the fields of medicine and surgery developed separately, that’s not my purpose here. Rather, I’m writing to make an observation about how all surgeons, in general, view their role in patient care and management differently than physicians do.

I’m fond of an old saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” From my perspective as a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, this aptly describes many surgeons.

Surgeons like to perform surgery. They like to cut on things. Then they like to sew patients up and move on with their day.

In my observation, many surgeons aren’t so good at post-operative care. They don’t like to manage patient complaints of pain or wounds that look infected. Instead of treating their post-operative patients as individuals, there is a temptation to talk everyone up to having complaint the fall within the normal range of expected outcomes after surgery.

Perhaps that’s why some surgeons even schedule groups of patients for post-operative group visits, rather than conducting more time-consuming individual appointments to see how their patients are doing.

At Painter Law Firm, some of the most common medical malpractice concerns of our clients who have undergone surgery is poor follow-up care from their surgeons. We hear about how surgeons will not even see patients despite scary, infected looking wounds—even after they email or text photos to the surgeon’s staff. Similarly, we are told about how surgeons don’t believe patients’ complaints of pain.

Whether the surgeons believe it or not, though, unhappy surgical wounds and unusual pain are both classic signs of infection. At a minimum, the standard of care requires surgeons to give individualized attention to determine if an infection might be present, which would require a wound culture and sensitivity study and then, if needed, appropriate antibiotic therapy. In other words, medical care—the type of work that many surgeons don’t like.

If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor surgical or post-surgical care in Texas, then contact a top-rated experienced Texas medical malpractice lawyer for free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.


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