Neurosurgeons are medical doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases and injuries of the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system. They may perform surgeries related to these areas.
Neurosurgeons must be able to handle a high volume of cases in a short period of time. They must be highly trained in both medicine and surgery. Neurosurgeons must have excellent manual dexterity and the ability to think quickly on their feet. They must be able to work with a wide range of people, from the very young to the very old.
Neurosurgeons work in hospitals and surgery centers, where they oversee surgical procedures. They may also practice in private practice or at universities, teaching medical students and residents how to perform surgery.
Neurosurgeon Job Duties
Typical job duties for neurosurgeons include the following:
- Conducting medical tests such as MRIs and CT scans to gather information about the brain and surrounding organs
- Developing treatment plans based on patient needs and goals to promote recovery or improve function
- Performing surgical procedures on the brain to treat such conditions as head injuries, tumors, aneurysms, infections and vascular malformations
- Operating on the spine to remove herniated discs or other spinal conditions that cause nerve compression or instability
- Monitoring neurological status of patients after surgery
- Prescribing medications and ordering postoperative physical therapy to aid recovery from surgery
- Consulting with families regarding treatment plans for their loved one
Neurosurgeon Salary & Outlook
The median annual wage for neurosurgeons is $559,273. The top earners make over $1 million per year. Those earning higher wages tend to work in private practice.
The number of jobs for neurosurgeons is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade. This growth is due to the increasing number of brain and spinal cord injuries and illnesses that will require treatment. As medical technology improves and more people live longer, the demand for neurosurgeons will increase even more than average.
Neurosurgeon Job Requirements
Qualifications for a neurosurgeon include:
Education: Neurosurgeons must first earn an undergraduate degree in general or premedical studies. Other common course requirements include anatomy, physiology, chemistry, physics and math.
They must then earn a medical degree. This degree should be obtained through an accredited program that typically takes four years to complete. Once they begin their medical school studies, they will learn about anatomy, pathophysiology, and other subjects before learning about how to diagnose disease and perform procedures.
Training: After graduating from medical school, all surgeons must complete an accredited residency program that is approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The length of the residency varies depending on the specialty. For neurosurgery, the typical length is five years. During the residency, residents learn what it takes to be board certified in neurosurgery while working directly with experts in the field.
Certifications: All states require neurosurgeons to be licensed and board-certified in order to practice medicine. Further certifications are not required but can help candidates stand out. The American Board of Neurological Surgery offers several continuing education certifications.
A neurosurgeon must have the following skills:
Research skills: Research skills are important because new procedures and treatments are constantly being developed by neurosurgeons.
Hand-eye coordination: The job requires surgeons to work with delicate instruments and handle fine pieces of equipment, so it is important that they have steady hands.
Attention to detail: Neurosurgeons must pay close attention to their patients’ symptoms and diagnoses because the slightest mistake could lead to devastating consequences.
Physical stamina: A neurosurgeon’s job requires a great deal of physical stamina. It can involve long days spent operating on patients or long nights spent on call in case of an emergency. In addition, many neurosurgeons travel frequently between hospitals and states, which means that they must be able to stay alert while flying for long periods of time.
Medical knowledge: The job requires an extensive knowledge of medical terminology, anatomy, and other aspects of medicine.
Interpersonal skills: A neurosurgeon must work closely with other doctors, nurses, and patients.
Neurosurgeon Work Environment
The work environment of a neurosurgeon varies depending on the location, size, and type of medical facility. However, in general terms, they can be found in hospitals or medical clinics where the working environment is generally comfortable with good ventilation systems. They must stand on their feet for hours at a time without interruption, especially during brain surgery.
A neurosurgeon’s job is physically and emotionally demanding. They may have to work long hours with little time off, especially during emergency situations.
Neurosurgeon Career Advancement
Although neurosurgeons may enjoy their jobs, they are always looking for ways to advance their career. The most obvious path is to find a higher-level position within the same hospital or to join another hospital as a chief of neurosurgery. Based on experience, some neurosurgeons may become medical directors, which means they are in charge of all neurosurgery operations within a given hospital or medical system.
Other neurosurgeons may choose to go into research, focusing on how to make advancements in their field. They might also teach at medical schools and universities, sharing their expertise with future neurosurgeons. There are also fellowships a neurosurgeon may pursue to further their career. These include specialties like cranial or spinal cord injury, and peripheral nerve fellowships.
Here are three trends influencing how neurosurgeons work. Neurosurgeons will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.
Use of Medical Robotics
Medical robots have been in use for years, but they are increasingly being used to help patients with a wide range of procedures and surgeries.
These advances will be helpful for patients who may need more complex surgeries that would otherwise be out of reach due to the risk involved or limitations on surgeons’ time. The advancements can lead to increased profit margins for medical professionals while reducing stress on both patients and surgeons.
Impact of Big Data on Health Care
As new sources of big data emerge, more professionals in the health care field will need to learn how to effectively analyze these large amounts of information.
While some neurosurgeons might only use basic software programs, others may work with complex analytics programs that help them determine which patients would benefit from specific treatments.
Some medical centers are using predictive analytics software to predict which patients are at risk for strokes or heart attacks, so they can act on these insights and treat patients early.
Increased Focus on Preventative and Non-Invasive Medicine
As medical technology advances, the importance of preventative medicine is increasing. For example, brain imaging technologies like CT scans and MRIs can now be used to detect neurological conditions that would have otherwise gone undetected until they caused significant damage to the brain. This means that doctors are now able to intervene sooner in order to protect patients from further risk of injury or impairment.
Furthermore, neurosurgeons are increasingly interested in non-invasive procedures like stent placements for aneurysms because these procedures reduce the need for invasive surgery, which can often be life-threatening for patients.
How to Become a Neurosurgeon
1. Planning Your Career Path
When thinking about a career as a neurosurgeon, it’s important to be sure that you have the right mindset for the job. Surgeons must be detail-oriented and exacting, but also calm under pressure. A career as a neurosurgeon is an intense and highly competitive field and requires a character that strives for excellence. The high stakes involved in operating on the brain, spine, and nervous system require surgeons to be highly focused.
It can take several years of intense training before one is eligible to sit for the board certification exam. Once you are fully qualified as a neurosurgeon, there are several different areas of specialization within the field. Some doctors specialize in pediatric neurosurgery while others focus on brain tumors or spinal injuries.
2. Writing a Resume
The best resumes for neurosurgeons highlight their attention to detail, technical skills, and ability to work under pressure.
When talking about your responsibilities in previous jobs, be sure to emphasize the challenges that you solved. Since many neurosurgeons work closely with other doctors, it’s also important to mention any collaboration that you’ve done. Include details about how you worked with colleagues to develop new techniques or improve existing ones.
In addition, it’s important to emphasize any research you have done or continue to do, as this shows that you are continually learning and expanding your knowledge base. You should also list all continuing education courses that you have completed or are planning on taking in the future, as well as your degree and license.
3. Applying for Jobs
The best way to find a job as a neurosurgeon is to be an active participant in the neurosurgery community. Attend job fairs and conferences, try to speak with people from a variety of institutions, ask other people who are working as neurosurgeons how they found their jobs, and share your experiences with others. Also, keep your eye on the American Association of Neurological Surgeons for job listings. Most importantly, keep learning. It will be difficult to find a job as a neurosurgeon if you’re not qualified enough for the job.
4. Ace the Interview
If you are interviewing for a neurosurgeon position, be prepared to speak about your past accomplishments, your current goals, and how you can meet the company’s needs. It is important to demonstrate that you are passionate about the field of neurosurgery.
Your answers will be judged based upon their thoroughness, conciseness, accuracy, and clarity. Be sure to voice your answers clearly and articulately. If you are asked a question that is technology-related, be prepared with an answer that demonstrates your understanding of the industry’s most current trends and best practices.
Prepare for this interview by reading up on the latest developments in the field, monitoring what other neurosurgeons are talking about, and talking with other professionals in your industry. Practice explaining your philosophy on how neurosurgery should be performed under specific circumstances.