The field of medicine is vast and exciting. Career paths range from nursing to teaching, with fascinating specializations that are seemingly endless. You could say there’s something for everyone (that is, everyone is passionate about patient care and doesn’t mind a 12-hour shift from time to time).
Careers in medicine are rewarding, both for practitioners and their patients. As a neurologist, you’ll work with patients experiencing conditions that drastically affect their well-being and ability to work, enjoy free time and even get a good night’s sleep.
Helping these patients manage their conditions and even thrive is noble work. And we know you’re just the person to do it. Read on to learn how.
What is a neurologist?
A neurologist is a physician who works with patients affected by the brain and nervous system conditions, including the spinal cord. This type of doctor treats and diagnoses conditions that affect every part of human functioning, from thoughts to feelings and bodily motions.
What conditions do neurologists treat?
As neurologists work with the nervous system—aka the body’s control center—they treat conditions like seizures (epilepsy), severe headaches like migraines, sleep disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, movement disorders, and strokes. They may also work with patients suffering from brain injuries or brain tumors.
But not all neurology work is the same. There are subspecialties for treating conditions in patients experiencing certain neurological disorders or specific populations (like children or older adults). Some of those include:
- Geriatric neurology
- Neuromuscular medicine
- Neurocritical care
- Autonomic disorders
- Child neurology
- Interventional neuroradiology
How to become a neurologist
Becoming a doctor may be long and challenging, but don’t let that keep you from your passion. It’s an educational saga that we’re more than sure you can pull off, and we’ll be there to support you along the way. Here are the key steps to becoming a neurologist:
Get your college degree
Getting an undergraduate degree is a requisite for most medical careers, and if you plan to become a doctor, you’ll need one in a subject related to your field. Many colleges offer pre-med programs that focus on all relevant material, like biology, anatomy, and chemistry. Keep that GPA up because getting into medical school is a competitive process!
Pass the MCAT
Your MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) results show how much you’ve learned in your undergraduate studies and how prepared you are for the next step: medical school.
Go to medical school
Med school has two parts. First, you have years of general coursework. Then you take on a mix of the specialized curriculum in your field (in this case, neurology) and hands-on work (rotations). We hope to make your training a bit more comfortable by keeping you looking and feeling great in luxurious scrubs.
Complete an internship and neurology residency program
In this step of your education, you’ll get firsthand, specialized experience in the field, working alongside an experienced professional. You’ll gain knowledge of patient care and what life is like on the job. Residency can be long, so strap in. For example, neurosurgeons need to complete six to eight years of residency.
Get certified and licensed
The final step of this long but worthwhile journey is taking a test with the organization for the United States Medical Licensing Examination, sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Depending on what practice you choose, you’ll also need to take additional specialized certification exams:
- For neurologists, the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc. (ABPN)
- For neurosurgeons, the American Board of Neurological Surgery (ABNS)
A day in the life of a neurologist
Getting your feet wet with an internship and residency is one way to learn what a day in the life of a neurologist is like. But reading up on it before spending eight years of your life finding out couldn’t hurt, right?
As a neurologist, your average day will include seeing patients, diagnosing their conditions and making treatment plans. You’ll hear from both new and existing patients, prescribe and adjust medications and track developments or issues in patients’ progress.
As a neurosurgeon, you’ll likely start operating early in the morning and be in surgery for hours. You’ll also support patients and loved ones in understanding the patient’s condition and what limits and precautions it may imply.
What are the types of neurologists?
The brain changes throughout our lifetime; it’s changing right now as you’re reading this. That’s why neurology requires many specialists to understand the changing needs of this organ. If you dedicate yourself to this fascinating field, you could pursue any of these specializations:
- Neurophysiologist: Neurophysiologists work with patients suffering from conditions like epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Tourette’s syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and more, often using electrical activity like electromyography.
- Neuro-muscular specialists: These physicians work to treat and rehabilitate patients with issues affecting their motor neurons, nerves, and muscles.
- Epilepsy specialist: This doctor, also known as an epileptologist, treats and diagnoses patients suffering from seizures.
- Vascular neurologist: This specialized neurologist works with patients who have suffered a stroke.
- Child neurologist: This physician, also known as a pediatric neurologist, works with children who suffer from neurological issues affecting their brain, spine, nerves, blood vessels, or muscles.
- Geriatric neurologists: These doctors specialize in diagnosing, treating, and caring for mature patients affected by neurological diseases. This population is especially prone to neurological conditions as the nervous system ages, and these physicians can help provide palliative care.
Remember, we’re always here to support you on the long road to achieving your dream, whether becoming a neurologist, neurosurgeon, or medical professional. And we’ll be there right up until it’s time to “scrub in” and perform neurosurgery on a patient.