If you're exploring medical careers, you might be interesting in finding out what a neurologist is and what kind of training is needed in order to become one. Neurology is the study of the nervous system, and a neurologist is a physician who treats disorders of the nervous system and the brain. It takes a great deal of education and training to become a neurologist.
The Role of a Neurologist
A neurologist is involved in direct care, diagnosing and treating patients who have problems with their brain and nervous system. Though they may recommend surgical treatment, they do not actually perform surgery, although they often will follow up patients who have had neuro-related surgery. In addition to seeing patients, neurologists may also work in consultation with other doctors. Patients may go to neurologists, because they are showing symptoms of a disorder, or because they are ill or have been injured. According to the American Academy of Neurology, some of the usual types of illnesses or injuries that a neurologist might diagnose and treat include brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, headaches, epilepsy, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease or MS. Patients who have had strokes might also be seen by a neurologist.
A neurologist works to diagnose patients in a number of ways. They take the patient's history and sometimes run tests to ascertain how a patient is functioning mentally. That might include checking a patient's cognitive abilities, their speech or memory, vision, balance, reflexes, coordination or strength. A neurologist is trained to do tests to help diagnose patients. Some of the more common tests a neurologist might perform include a lumbar puncture, an EEG, a CT scan or an MRI. They might also recommend that their patients do sleep studies. A neurologist should be skilled in communication, critical thinking and attentiveness to detail, as it's important to keep well-organized notes on patients and be able to analyze your findings. You will also need to communicate those findings to patients, colleagues and sometimes as part of ongoing research into neurological medicine.
Rigorous Training for Neurologists
The human brain and nervous system are highly complex, and it takes a very skilled and well-trained doctor in order to diagnose and treat patients with these kinds of problems. Accordingly, neurologists spend a good deal of time in school. If you are looking into becoming a neurologist, you should plan for at least eight years of school and training after your bachelor's degree. This will likely include three-four years of medical school, a year long internship and then approximately another three years of training in a sub-specialty of neurologist. The areas in which you could specialize are numerous, but may include strokes (sometimes called vascular neurology), epilepsy, neuro muscular disorders or child neurology.
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Although neurology is a demanding field, it's also a rewarding one. Patients who struggle with neurological issues are in need of excellent diagnosis and treatment that can help improve their quality of life. Given the extensive training and the demanding work involved in neurology, it's probably not surprising to learn that a neurologist is also very well paid.