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Student Careers

A career in ear, nose, and throat surgery

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 29 August 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l4902
  1. Michaella Cameron, North West London ear, nose, and throat registrar1,
  2. Rishi Mandavia, North West London ear, nose, and throat registrar1,
  3. Alex Yao, North West London ear, nose, and throat registrar2,
  4. Jayesh Doshi, consultant ear, nose and throat surgeon3
  1. 1Royal National Throat Nose Ear Hospital, London
  2. 2NHS North West Thames Hospitals
  3. 3Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Birmingham
  1. Correspondence to: michaella.cameron{at}

This specialty sees older and young patients in a clinic setting complemented by surgical innovations

An ear, nose, and throat (ENT) surgeon is a medical specialist who diagnoses and treats head and neck pathology, typically managing both medical and surgical aspects of patient illness. The specialty is also called otolaryngology; it was initially formed by combining otology and laryngology in the 20th century.1 An otolaryngologist treats patients of all ages, from newborns to frail older adults. With at least nine available subspecialties, the budding surgeon has a range of options to choose from—and most areas are evolving, with technological and medical advances changing practice. This article explains what a career in ENT surgery involves and how to become an ENT surgeon.

What does an ENT surgeon do?

ENT surgeons divide their time between outpatient clinics, theatre, and emergency on calls (10% of patients require emergency intervention). A typical week involves four 3.5 hour sessions in clinic and four 4.5 hour sessions in theatre.23 ENT consultants and registrars are able to coordinate their on call commitments from home, provided they are within an agreed radius from the hospital.45

A full time consultant ENT surgeon typically works 40 hours per week.45 Less than full time training is growing in popularity across surgical specialities, and 11.3% of UK ENT trainees were in the training scheme in 2016.6 The Joint Committee for Surgical Training highlighted in a recent statement that ENT is one of the most popular surgical specialities for less than full time training among higher surgical trainees6; it is second only to general surgery.

ENT consultants have a subspecialty: otology, rhinology, laryngology, head and neck cancer, facial plastics, paediatrics, skull …

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