Plastic surgery is the only field in medicine where unqualified non-plastic surgeons work without the necessary training, knowledge or experience. If you plan to have plastic surgery do your research. Make sure you are in safe and qualified hands of a specialist Plastic surgeon.
In this article I will go through the basics of what to look for and ask about, to help you make sure your surgeon has the essential traits needed in a specialist plastic surgeon – the Education, the Training and the Experience.
All qualified medical doctors in South Africa have completed a medical degree (e.g.MBChB) and are registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In addition to a recognised medical degree, your plastic surgeon should be a registered for independent practice as a Plastic and reconstructive surgeon with the Health Professions Council of South Africa.
The HPCSA has a database of medical practitioners. You can verify a plastic surgeon’s registration status this way.
AVOID BOGUS PLASTIC SURGEONS
If your surgeon claims to be a “aesthetic doctor” or “facial surgeon” this should alert you that they may not be trained or qualified as a plastic surgeon. For that matter, they may not be surgically trained at all.
To clarify a common misconception, general practitioners, read aesthetic doctors, are not surgically trained. Even though Obs and Gyn, ENT or General surgeons etc have had surgical training in their own fields, the fact remains these surgeons and GPs are not qualified or trained in plastic surgery.
All plastic surgeons in South Africa will have undergone general surgical training for 3-4 years followed by 4-5 years of specialist training in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery at a tertiary University hospital. A bonified plastic surgeon will have one or both of the following professional qualifications in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery:
SA Fellowship of the College of Plastic surgeons of South Africa abbreviated FCS (Plast) (SA)
Masters of medicine in Plastic and Reconstructive surgery, abbreviated MMed (Plastic surgery).
Many plastic surgeons have a special interest in a specific treatment or surgical technique and may have done additional training in the form of a Fellowship, in a specific field such as microsurgery, lymphedema surgery or breast reconstruction.
During your consultation, find out whether your plastic surgeon regularly performs the procedure you are interested in. Most plastic surgeons will offer to show you some before and after pictures to give you an idea of expected results. Always bear in mind that body shapes differ. When you look at before and after pictures with the plastic surgeon, you should focus on photos of cases with a body shape and size that resembles you most closely. This will give you a realistic idea of your surgical outcome. You can also ask to chat to a reference patient who is willing to share their experience with you.
The Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic surgeons of Southern Africa (APRASSA) is an organisation to which all plastic surgeons in good standing are members.
You can verify membership and details of affiliated plastic surgeons on APRASSA’s “Find a plastic surgeon page”.
OTHER THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
Facilities – Make sure the hospital or surgical clinic where your surgery will be done is suited to the kind of surgery you are planning. You can contact or visit the hospital and should feel free to ask questions about what you can expect. If you are undergoing a minor procedure in a clinic or office-based surgical facility find out whether it is equipped and suitable for the type of procedure you are planning.
Convenient location – A clinic or hospital facility close to your home will reduce travel time on the day of surgery and for your follow up visits.
Office staff – A plastic surgery practice with professional and friendly support staff will make scheduling your follow up appointments and surgeries hassle-free.
After care nursing – Many plastic surgeons employ a registered professional nurse who will assist you with you recovery and wound care after surgery.
A successful relationship is based on honesty and good communication – the doctor-patient-relationship is no different. You should feel at ease with your Plastic surgeon, and should feel free to honestly discuss your needs and goals. Success in terms of patient satisfaction is enhanced when surgeon and patient candidly discuss goals, agree on realistic expectations, and plan the course of the surgical journey together.
Whether you find your plastic surgeon through an online search or through word of mouth from a friend or family who has had a good result, always do your research. Double check the three most important factors 1 Education, 2 Training and 3 Experience
and make sure you are in qualified hands.