© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Real Poop

You could totally do this. It isn't brain surgery. Oh wait. It is. Scratch that. Maybe you can't do this.

There's a reason that the phrase "it isn't brain surgery" exists. Being a surgeon, let alone a brain surgeon, is hard. It takes roughly a million years of school and a zillion dollars in tuition to be able to practice. Once you are finally cleared to start slicing and dicing, you are looking at crazy-long hours. You almost always have to be on call, and the background there is the spectrum of the nauseating prospect of cutting through skin, bone and tissue, and the agonizing emotional trauma of losing a patient on your operating table whom you feel might have been saved. Then add to this mix the high likelihood of being slapped with a malpractice lawsuit (hopefully there is nothing mal about your practice and you step left and avoid the whole with a nastygram from your own expensive lawyer).

So why does anyone do it? The pay is good—but only a small rounding error of what the big-shot hedge fund managers make. If someone is so talented as to be able to survive the medical gauntlet and become a brain surgeon, couldn't they have gone to Wall Street and made way more money selling muni bonds or something? Probably. So it is likely not about the money. 

No—someone decides to become a surgeon because they want to save lives. Perhaps they have a God complex, maybe they just want to do what they can to prolong and preserve the life span of their fellow man. Either way, it is a noble pursuit, and isn't about being a slave to the dollar or having a sick desire to open people up and fiddle with their middle.

If being a surgeon is too much pressure for you but you still want to help people, there are many other types of doctor for you to consider. You could bring lives into this world as an obstetrician, or you could simply improve the quality of people's lives as a general practitioner, opthamologist or podiatrist, just to name a few. Or you could be a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, helping to improve the quality of people without lives. 

Before considering this path, you have to weigh the upside with the downside and be sure you're prepared to handle it. You won't be able to save everyone, so people will be dying under your knife. And if you make just the tiniest slip, people could be dying because of your knife. Aside from the hospital you work for not taking too kindly to the major malpractice lawsuit you're responsible for bringing against them, you've accidentally taken the life of someone whom you were meant to save. How long do you think Batman would keep his superhero status if he pulled that kind of malarkey? Not long, we can assure you.

Surgeons are among the highest paid salary-based professionals in any industry but, unlike sports stars and film actors, there aren't too many people arguing that they don't deserve every penny.

It's a tale of two lives, really—you'll get worked to the bone (literally) and be physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of every day, but during the rare moments that you are home and able to relax, you will likely be living in the lap of luxury (which, by the way, is a small but very comfortable lap indeed), all of your fundamental needs will be met, you'll have yourself a trophy wife (or husband) if that's what you want, your 2.5 kids who will make their way through their private school and probably become surgeons themselves, and you'll be able to take vacations that will make the rest of us drool.

So what you have to ask yourself is this: "Could I stomach reaching my hand inside a few chest cavities or rewiring a few brains for hours every day from now until early retirement?" If so—gross. But great! The world needs you people a lot more than it needs ambulance chasing lawyers, mediocre politicians, and running backs.