American Society of Plastic Surgeons
For Consumers

Plastic Surgery Clinical Privileges

This resource has information on granting clinical privileges for plastic surgical services based on the realities of medical practice and education of the specialist.


Training Path for a Surgeon Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery

Significance of Board Certification

Medical specialty certification in the United States is a voluntary process. While medical licensure sets the minimum competency requirements to diagnose and treat patients, it is not specialty specific. Board certification demonstrates a physican's exceptional expertise in a particular specialty and/or subspecialty of medical practice.3

Certification by an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) board includes initial specialty and subspecialty certification and maintenance of certification throughout the physician's career. The intent of both the initial certification of physicians and the maintenance of certification is to provide assurance to the public that a physician specialist certified by a Member Board of the ABMS has successfully completed an approved educational program and evaluation process which includes components designed to assess the medical knowledge, judgement, professionalism and clinical communication skills required to provide quality patient care in the specialty.3  

The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Inc. 

An important qualifier for granting plastic surgery privileges is that the surgeon seeking privileges be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) or admissible to the ABPS examination process. ABPS is one of only 24 accredited specialty boards recognized by the ABMS. Surgeons who meet the requirements of the ABPS:

  • To establish requirements for the qualifications of applicants who request a certificate of their ability in the field of plastic surgery in its broadest sense.1
  • To conduct examinations of approved candidates who seek certification by the Board.1
  • To issue certificates to those who meet the Board's requirements and pass the respective examinations.1
  • To do and engage in any and all lawful activities that may be incidental or reasonably related to any of the foregoing purposes.1

The ABPS is not an educational institution, and certificates issued by the Board are not to be considered degrees. The certificate does not confer on any person legal qualifications, privileges, or license to practice medicine or the specialty of plastic surgery.1

Standards of certification are clearly distinct from those of licensure; possession of a Board certificate does not indicate total qualification for practice privileges, nor does it imply exclusion of others not so certified. The Board does not purport in any way to interfere with or limit the professional activities of any licensed physician nor does it desire to interfere with practitioners of medicine and any of their regular or legitimate activities.

Sub-certification in Surgery of the Hand (SOTH)

Subspecialty Certification in Surgery of the Hand (formerly called Certificates of Added Qualification or CAQ), provides board certified surgeons a way to highlight their interest in hand surgery. Currently, hand surgery is the only area in which plastic surgeons certified by the ABPS may obtain a subspecialty certificate. Treatment and management of hand diseases and trauma are an integral part of the core curriculum in plastic surgery residency training. There is no requirement or necessity for a diplomate of The ABPS Inc. to hold a Certificate in the Subspecialty of Surgery of the Hand in order to be considered qualified to include hand surgery within the practice of plastic surgery. Under no circumstances should a diplomate be considered not qualified to practice within an area of a subspecialty solely because of lack of subspecialty certification.


  1. The American Board of Plastic Surgery, Ind., Booklet of Information, July1, 2011 - June 30, 2012.