Cosmetic Surgeons and Plastic Surgeons. Do you know the difference?

By September 22, 2015Plastic Surgeons
Plastic Surgeon

One could be forgiven for not knowing the difference between a ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’ and a ‘Plastic Surgeon’. Things get even more complicated when some plastic surgeons refer to themselves as ‘Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeons’. The truth is, the terms are misleading and confusing, perhaps by design.

You see, anyone with a medical degree can call themselves a ‘Cosmetic Surgeon’. That is because ‘Cosmetic Surgeons’ are unregulated. There is no uniform, overarching governing body that provides cosmetic training or competency testing in exchange for the privilege of calling yourself a surgeon. That is not to say that all cosmetic surgeons are not competent and untrained. What it does mean is that there is no way to determine the level and quality of training of a cosmetic surgeon and whether or not that meets the industry standard.

Plastic surgeons on the other hand must undergo extensive training and competency testing before the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (RACS) will allow them accreditation. More specifically, specialist plastic surgeons are required to undertake a minimum of 5 years post graduate training that is provided by RACS and the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). It is only upon successful completion of this highly intensive specialist training that a doctor becomes a ‘Fellow of the Royal Australian College of Surgeons (FRACS). If a surgeon has FRACS next to their name, then you can feel confident that they at least have an accredited specialist training in plastic surgery.

Now this is where things can get tricky. Not all plastic surgeons practice in aesthetic plastic surgery. Within the plastics sphere, there are paediatric plastic surgeons, those who specialise in burns or hand surgery and so forth. Because of this, you will often see some plastic surgeons refer to themselves as Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeons. This simply means that they specialise in or focus on the aesthetic side of plastic surgery. As you can see, there are many terms that are thrown around that can make this distinction difficult to navigate.

The key points to take away are:

  1. Plastic Surgeons are required to undergo extensive training in all areas of the specialty, not just aesthetic plastic surgery
  2. Plastic Surgeons are trained specialists who to become qualified pass difficult competency testing.
  3. Plastic Surgeons are governed by an overarching authority that require they undertake a certain level of professional development to keep their skills current
  4. Anyone doctor can call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, there are no competency requirements and no standard level of training
  5. Not all cosmetic surgeons are untrained and unskilled, but the lack of regulation make it difficult to determine

At the end of the day, this confusion around terms and titles really makes the task of finding a surgeon difficult.

Due to the lack of regulation around cosmetic surgeons, you will only ever find RACS accredited surgeons on our ‘Clinician Directory’. This way we can be sure that we are only connecting people with surgeons who possess the qualifications to perform permanent, body altering surgery. This issue however, does highlight the need to research and discuss your potential surgeons with others online. At PSF, we pride ourselves on providing a free, open and honest platform to engage with past patients so that ‘if you want melons, you don’t end up with lemons’.

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