Putting Yourself in Good Hands: How to Choose the Right Surgeon

Are you reluctant to schedule important surgery because you don’t trust your local hospital? Do you need help in finding a board-certified surgeon who specializes in treating your condition?


There are more than 48 million surgeries performed in the United States each year, ranging from routine eye surgeries to life-saving organ transplants.

The process of finding a qualified surgeon, however, can feel overwhelming. You need to find a practitioner who’s in your insurance network and who has experience performing the kind of surgery you’ll need. 

What’s the best way to find a good surgeon? What kinds of questions should you ask before you commit to a surgical procedure?

If you’re concerned about getting the best medical care, this article is for you. We will give you the inside scoop on interviewing surgeons and help you find a local surgical center. 

Get High-Quality Referrals

The first step to finding the right surgeon is to get referrals. You can start by asking your friends and family which hospital or surgical center they recommend. 

Another quick way to get referrals is to ask members of your support group. If you’re not part of a group, you might want to attend a local meeting or look for a group that meets online.

They should be able to steer you in the right direction when it comes to surgeons and long-term options for your recovery. 

You should be able to get a few names of potential surgeons by checking with friends, family and colleagues, but don’t stop there. 

If you know any medical professionals, talk to them about who they would recommend. Nurses can give you insider information about the doctors they work with, even when hospitals are reluctant to share the truth. 

Finally, you can ask your insurance company for a list of referrals. This way, you won’t waste your time looking for surgeons who end up being “out of network.”

Do a Thorough Background Check

Once you have a list of potential surgeons, it’s time to do a background check. Surgeons are required to have a license to practice in their state.

You can check their credentials by going to the Federation of State Medical Boards website and selecting the “consumer resources” option. 

After you’ve confirmed that your surgeon is licensed to practice, you’ll need to confirm that they’re trained in the particular specialty you need.

You can do that by going to the American Board of Medical Specialties website and making sure that your surgeon is board-certified. 

Keep in mind, however, that newer surgeons may only be listed as “board eligible.” That means that they have all the training they need but haven’t taken the qualifying test just yet. 

The ideal surgeon will have many years of experience in performing the kind of surgery you need. They will have zero disciplinary actions, great patient reviews and positive long-term recovery rates. 

Talk to More Than One Surgeon

No matter which surgical specialties you need to validate, it’s vital to talk to more than one surgeon before scheduling an operation. 

Ideally, you’ll be able to find a compassionate, patient doctor who is comfortable answering tough questions. Don’t be afraid to ask potential surgeons about their success rates, failure rates, and their approaches to long-term recovery. 

If you’re paying a deductible for your surgery or for the entire procedure out of pocket, make sure that the fee schedule is clear and up-to-date.

Costs can vary by location, so you might get a better deal at a smaller hospital or surgical center. 

Your surgeon should be able to answer all of your financial questions or refer you to their billing department. 

If a surgeon can’t show you any patient testimonials, you might need to find another surgeon. If you feel like your surgeon isn’t speaking honestly and directly to you, keep looking until you find the right person. 

Surgery is a major undertaking and you’re right to want more than one opinion. Even if you think you’ve found the right surgeon, take the time to talk to one or two more. 

Hospital vs. Surgical Center

The good news is that medical malpractice rates are declining in the United States. The not-so-good news is that you should probably skip the emergency room. 

Emergency rooms are busy, sometimes chaotic places where the chance for doctor error is high. If you’re thinking of having surgery done in a hospital, you should know that your surgery might be delayed due to more urgent cases. 

A surgeon doctor in an emergency room might also be distracted or not have enough time to collect all of your information. 

If you have an urgent condition, you might be better off going to a surgical center. 

Surgical centers are often physician-owned treatment facilities where they specialize in certain types of medicine. Depending upon their location, they can treat a wide variety of conditions: everything from cataracts to joint problems.

Surgical centers can also remove tonsils, perform colonoscopies and take pre-op diagnostic tests. They can treat patients with chronic pain who have had a tough time getting the right treatment from their local surgeon doctor team.

Most importantly, the rates of infection tend to be lower at surgical centers than they are at hospitals. About 3% of patients at surgical centers get a treatable infection verses about 7% at most hospitals. 

Local vs. Larger City

If you’re lucky enough to have a surgical center in your town, then you should start there. If not, you may have to go to a larger city for your procedure. 

The thing to keep in mind is that local doctors typically have access to the same equipment as doctors in larger cities. They can also share patient data via the internet including x-rays and blood tests.

You may be able to get your preliminary testing locally and then go to the city for your surgery. 

If you’re going to have an inpatient surgical procedure, you’ll need to find a parking option that’s good for a few days. You may want to take a train, bus or plane to your surgery if you know you won’t feel strong enough to drive afterward. 


Before you schedule your surgery, find out how your surgeon wants to handle post-operative check-ups. Can you afford the cost of traveling repeatedly, or is there somewhere closer to home that can follow up with you after your surgery?

The last thing to do before you finalize a date is to see if your insurance company can cover some of your travel expenses.

You may also be able to find reduced-price tickets for your family for emergency travel if needed.  

Schedule Your Procedure

After you find the right surgical doctor, it’s time to schedule your surgery. If it’s an inpatient procedure, make sure that you know how long you’ll be staying.


If it’s outpatient, make sure that you have someone to drive you back and forth on that day. 


When you talk to your treatment team, make sure that a qualified anesthesiologist will be administering your anesthesia. These are highly-trained professionals with experience in critical care. 


When you’re preparing for surgery, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions to the letter. You might be asked not to eat or drink anything for 12 hours before your surgery, and it’s important to follow those rules. 

If you ingest any food or liquid, you may invalidate the procedure and cause yourself more heartache as you wait for another appointment. 

If you smoke, you should stop for three days before your surgery. Smoking can cause longer recovery times and problems breathing after anesthesia. 

Finally, make sure to wear comfortable clothing and to leave any valuables at home as a safety precaution. 

Focus on Your Recovery

After you have surgery, your surgeon will let you know what steps to take to speed along your recovery. You may have to follow a different diet, smoke fewer cigarettes or participate in physical therapy sessions. 

You should also take your medicine as prescribed, avoid skipping meals and wait to go back to work. If you try to push yourself too hard, you could cause a relapse or create a breeding ground for infections. 

On the other hand, go ahead and walk around if you’re cleared to do so. You should avoid heavy lifting at first because it can open up scars from surgery, and you should also avoid standing for long periods of time. 

Try to work hard on your recovery, even if it means resting, and you should recover on schedule. 

Get Started with Finding a Local Surgeon

As you start to look for a surgeon, you should develop a list of “must-haves.” You might want a surgeon with more than 10 years of experience, or you might want to have your surgery within a certain distance of your home. 

Stick to your list as much as possible, and take the time to find the team that will serve you best. 

For more information on the services we provide, you can call one of our two locations or reach out to us online. We’re looking forward to giving you world-class medical care!