Neurology is one of the most challenging fields in medicine. Neurologists are medical physicians concerned with the health of the central, peripheral and automomous nervous systems. This includes disorders and diseases of the brain, head, spinal cord, and associated muscles and blood vessels.
Neurologists generally work in hospitals, clinics, medical practices or universities. They may specialize in neurosurgery, pediatric neurology, behavioral neurology, neurogenetics, neuroimmunology, neuro-oncology, sleep disorders or other fields.
Neurologists must receive extensive education and training, perform a wide range of duties, and work long hours. Those who meet these challenges can look forward to rewarding careers, as neurologists are in great demand.
Neurologist Job Description
A neurologist is a medical doctor who specializes in nervous-system conditions. The job entails consulting with patients, conducting tests and procedures, making diagnoses, and prescribing medication and other treatment.
A neurologist examines the nerves in the head and the neck, and measures a patient’s muscular coordination and reflexes. Impaired language skills also can be a sign of illness. Potential conditions include mental illness, cancer, stroke, epilepsy, spinal trauma, cognitive and behavioral disorders, infections, brain injuries, movement disorders, sleep problems, cerebral palsy, encephalitis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Huntington’s disease. Among the diagnostic procedures designed to detect such ailments are MRIs, CAT scans, SPECT tests, PET scans, lumbar punctures, spinal taps, electroencephalography, electromyography and nerve-conduction velocity tests.
Upon determining the nature of a patient’s disorder, the neurologist recommends treatment. In some cases, like epilepsy, medication may be prescribed. Physical therapy, specialized medical care or social services are sometimes appropriate. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, and other procedures that stimulate nerves or the brain, are often conducted.The neurologist job description include:
- Asking patients to describe their symptoms and medical histories
- Conducting diagnostic tests and procedures to determine the nature of an illness
- Making diagnoses, based on test results and patient observation
- Discussing treatment options with patients and their families, advising them of the potential benefits, risks and costs
- Developing treatment plans and coordinating care with other medical-service providers
- Creating and continually updating patient records
- Supervising and managing technicians and administrative staff
- Training staff and students
- Obtaining continuing education to stay up-to-date on neurology research and innovations
- Taking part in research studies, writing for medical journals and giving presentations at professional conferences
Neurologists have an extremely difficult job. They must make life-or-death decisions and live with the consequences. They are responsible not only for treating patients, but also for dealing with family members and coordinating medical associates.
Neurologists must be skilled clinicians and diagnosticians with refined people skills. An ability to effectively communicate with, and listen to, others is crucial. Neurologists need to be patient and sympathetic, because those they serve have cognitive problems that impair their ability to communicate. These doctors are on call at all times, often working 60 or more hours per week. Neurology is a high-pressure job involving the simultaneous administration of multiple cases.
How to Become a Neurologist
Becoming a neurologist entails many years of study. The first step is obtaining a four-year undergraduate degree at a college or university. If a school does not offer a pre-med program, a student may instead major in biology, chemistry or another science. Some colleges have pre-med concentration programs that feature science and math courses.
The next step is to find a medical school that is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. After four years of medical school, a prospective neurologist needs to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination and then do a one-year internship. That is followed by a residency, which may last three or four years, in a neurology program. This experience exposes young doctors to various neurological specialties.
Neurologist Training and Certification
Neurologists receive training during their internship and residency service. Most universities, clinics and other employers require neurologists to receive professional certification from either the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, or the American Board of Medical Specialties.
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Neurologist Job Description SummaryHere is a short recap of the neurologist job description:
- Diagnose and treat nervous system conditions
- Work with neurosurgeons and other specialists
- 4 year bachelor’s degree
- 4 years medical school program
- 1 year internship
- 3 to 4 years of residency program
- Must be licensed to practice
- 18% employment growth by 2022