What is a Gynecologist?

A gynecologist or OB/GYN (depending on their training) is a doctor who focuses on women’s health and the reproductive system.

These specialists assess, diagnose and treat various reproductive issues related to the breasts, ovaries, uterus, and vagina.

They also provide various other women’s health services to ensure they live healthy and productive lives.

As a result, gynecologists are essential to the healthcare system and women’s personal and reproductive health.

What Do Gynecologists Do?

Gynecologists perform numerous duties to ensure the health and well-being of the women they treat.

For instance, gynecologists perform physical examinations to observe their patient’s reproductive health.

It enables them to assess their patient’s health and diagnose and treat various reproductive health issues.

Gynecologists will observe abnormal, painful, or absent menstrual cycles to identify potential health problems.

They also check for infertility, vaginal and urinary tract infections and perform STI/STD screenings and cancer testing.

Effectively, gynecologists will examine, test, determine and treat various healthcare and reproduction issues.

Gynecologist Responsibilities:

  • Perform examinations to identify reproductive issues
  • Assess, diagnose and treat various medical conditions
  • Provide STI/STD tests
  • Educate women on healthy lifestyle practices
  • Prescribe medications
  • Develop treatment plans and medical procedures
  • Conduct cancer screenings
  • Assist with family planning and pregnancy
  • Assist with menstrual problems, menopause, and infertility issues
  • Perform minimally invasive surgical procedures

Gynecologists may perform other women’s health-related duties and procedures within their scope of practice. 

Health Screenings and Tests

During examinations, gynecologists may perform a pap smear and pelvic exam.

They also conduct other tests to check for various signs of possible healthcare problems.

It includes lumps in the breast, bloody or watery vaginal discharge, foul odors, back pain, and abdominal pain or cramping.

Patients experience pain or difficulty during urination regarding common reproductive and women’s health issues.

They also experience abnormal weight loss, diarrhea, loss of appetite, constant fatigue, and other healthcare issues.

These tests help gynecologists determine whether a patient suffers from a particular health issue.

It also enables them to determine whether the health issues are related to the patient’s reproductive system.

As a result, gynecologist can adequately treat their conditions with a treatment plan and prescriptive drugs.

  • Pap smear tests
  • Pelvic examinations
  • Cancer screenings
  • Breast examinations

In addition to testing for reproductive and health issues, gynecologists provide healthcare advice, medical assistance, prescriptive medications, and training to help women achieve and maintain optimal health.

Note: Gynecologists do not typically perform STI/STD tests unless requested or if they believe the patient requires testing.

Common Gynecologic Procedures

Gynecologists perform various gynecologic procedures to treat and improve women’s personal and reproductive health.

It includes hysterectomy, fibroid removal, laparoscopic myomectomy, ovarian cyst removal, and uterine polyps.

Gynecologists may also conduct hysteroscopic sterilization, robotic-assisted surgery, and other procedures if needed.

The gynecologic procedures gynecologists perform depend on the patient’s health, medical history, and condition.

It also depends on their ailment, the severity of their health problem, and alternative options to treat their condition.

Gynecologic procedures treat health issues related to the ovaries, cervix, fallopian tubes, uterus, vulva, vagina, and breasts.

Scope of Practice

Gynecologists receive extensive training and education to optimize women’s personal and reproductive health.

As a result, these specialists assess, diagnose and treat various medical conditions related to their scope of practice.

Gynecologists also prescribe medications, act as primary healthcare providers and operate independent healthcare practices.

Some gynecologists receive education and training in obstetrics to become OB/GYN healthcare providers.

It enables them to provide additional medical care, education, and support in other women’s health areas, including childbirth.

This training focuses on pregnancy, birth, and postnatal care, hence the name OB/GYN or obstetrics/gynecologist.

OB/GYNs provide more in-depth patient care that extends to pregnancy and child care than typical gynecologists.

As a result, patients receive more personal and comprehensive healthcare from a single healthcare provider.

Where Do Gynecologists Work?

Gynecologist work in various healthcare settings providing education, medical care, and support in women’s healthcare.

It includes hospitals, community health centers, OB/GYN and physician offices, outpatient clinics, and private practices.

They also operate in colleges, universities, and academic settings providing education and support to medical students.

Occupational Settings:

  • Community health centers
  • Hospitals
  • OB/GYN offices
  • Physician offices
  • Private practices
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Surgical departments
  • Infertility services

Gynecologists work in hospitals and healthcare facilities requiring services for women’s personal and reproductive health.

How To Become A Gynecologist

There are numerous steps students must complete to become gynecologists.

It includes getting a bachelor’s degree, passing the MCAT, acquiring an MD, completing a residency, and receiving board certification and licensure.

The following section examines the essential phases students must satisfy to receive licensure and work as gynecologists. 

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step to becoming a gynecologist is to attend college and obtain a bachelor’s degree.

Most students take a pre-med program course or center their education on math and sciences.

These courses include biology, human anatomy and physiology, mathematics, microbiology, and other related studies. 

Regardless, students must complete the necessary prerequisites for medical school to qualify for a post-graduate program.

They must also maintain the necessary GPA score required by the medical schools they want to attend.

2. Take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)

The medical college admissions test (MCAT) evaluates a student’s critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

It also determines their understanding of science concepts, communication, and writing mastery.

This exam lasts approximately 7.5 hours and uses a standardized multiple-choice format to assess a person’s knowledge.

The AAMC develops and administers the Medical College Admissions Test.

It helps medical admissions offices determine whether students qualify for the medical program.

After completing the MCAT and gaining entry to medical school, students finish an MD or DO program.

3. Earn a Medical Degree

Qualifying medical school students have two educational routes they can select to become gynecologists.

It includes the doctor of medicine (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) programs.

Each program requires four to five years of education to complete.

The first half of the medical program educates students on biological systems, immunology, and infectious diseases.

It also covers related topics that comprehensively expand on these subjects.

The second half concentrates on clinical rotations where students work with patients in various fields of medicine.

Clinical rotations include gynecology, obstetrics, and other domains of medicine.

During this time, medical students receive supervision and support under the guidance of licensed physicians.

It enables them to obtain first-hand experience and further develop their understanding of medicine and patient care.

4. Complete a Residency

Once students complete medical school, they must complete a four-year OBGYN residency.

The residency typically takes place in a hospital or clinical setting.

During this time, residents operate under the supervision of physicians and other licensed healthcare professionals.

It enables them to obtain extensive hands-on training and support to learn the OBGYN discipline adequately.

Residents receive preventative and primary care training, patient diagnosis, and surgical procedure applications.

They also learn concepts and applications related to gynecology, obstetrics, emergency medicine, and medical ethics.

Residencies are often lengthy and challenging, requiring residents to work long hours and manage unpredictable emergencies.

Residents frequently work in varying clinical rotations that affect their schedules and work/life balance.

That said, the residency is comprehensive, adequately preparing residents to operate independently within their careers.

By the end of the program, most professionals have extensive training to operate competently, confidently, and effectively.

5. Receive Board Certification & Licensure

After completing residency, aspiring gynecologists/OBGYNs must obtain board certification and licensure.

The American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology provides certification for gynecologists and obstetricians.

Students who complete the MD program can take the USMLE to obtain their licensure.

Alternatively, students who complete the DO program can take the COMPLEX-USA to obtain their licensure.

As with other steps to becoming a gynecologist/OBGYN, receiving board certification is somewhat lengthy.

Students need to pass a written exam and an oral exam.

Medical students/residents may complete the written exam after finishing their residency.

However, they must practice in women’s healthcare for a certain period before completing the oral exam.

Alternatively, they can pursue a fellowship program to obtain further training to become gynecologists/OBGYNs.

After the completion of the final exam, successful gynecologists/OBGYNs may obtain licensure and operate independently.