What is a neurosurgeon?
There are few medical specialties that are as rewarding or demanding as being a neurosurgeon. This is a physician who performs operations on the peripheral nervous system, including the spine and the brain. It is the most complex medical field to get into because of how intricate and specialized these parts of your body are. They not only perform surgery but are also called on frequently to consult with other specialists when it comes to certain medical conditions, illnesses, and tumors. They may also conduct complex research studies in order to advance knowledge in this field of medicine. One thing to note is that being a neurosurgeon is a very highly stressful job. Although it is a very sought after medical field and competition is fierce to get into a medical school there are some who hesitate to become a neurosurgeon because even one small mistake can get them sued.
Job description of a neurosurgeon
The most glamorous part of being a neurosurgeon is conducting surgeries but before it gets to this stage it is a culmination of a lot of other work which includes in-depth exams, intense preparation, and research. A neurosurgeon is best known for their expertise when it comes to the human brain. They will be called upon to treat tissue damage, treat tumors, deal with neurological injuries that are caused by a blood clot, accidents that have caused injuries or damage to the brain, spinal cord, or the nervous system, strokes, etc.
If there is brain surgery to be done it is a very complicated surgery and requires a lot of precision and skill. Most of these procedures are very long and can take several hours to do them. A neurosurgeon needs to have a lot confidence in their own talent and the support staff. If a neurosurgeon is trained to operate on the brain they are also able to operate on the spinal column. When they deal with the spinal column they can diagnosis and treat varying degrees of back injuries from slipped discs to paralysis issues that are more complicated.
Some neurosurgeons will only specialize in one area such as the brain or the spinal column but not both as it is easier to concentrate on just one specialized area. In certain circumstances, such as an emergency, because of the training that they receive covers both the brain and spinal column it will be easy to cross over and do an operation in the field they did not specialize in but have been trained in.
A neurosurgeon can also repair certain medical conditions that involve nerve damage but unfortunately not all nerve damage can be repaired. When repairing nerve damage it can involve almost any part of the body but it is a highly detailed level and very precise surgery. As with most surgeries on the nervous system, spine, or brain the surgeries can be quite lengthy and can take most of the surgeon’s day, even if it is just nerve damage to the finger. With the surgeries taking a long time to complete the neurosurgeon will spend as many as 12-18 hours bent over an operation table which in time can damage their back.
How to become a neurosurgeon?
While in high school they should take as many math and science courses that are offered. The first four years of college is spent working toward a bachelor’s degree There is not a specific field in which they need to get their bachelor’s degree but it would be beneficial to get one in pre-med or some type of science degree and to have in their course work cover advanced biology sciences, human anatomy, biochemistry, and microbiology in order to meet the admission requirements to get into medical school.. It is advisable that they have a GPA of at least 3.5 or higher. During their junior year of college they will have to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). This exam will let the medical schools be able to evaluate their training thru a set of multiple-choice questions and a skills assessment.
Once in medical school there are 4 years that they must attend. For an aspiring neurosurgeon they should make sure to include advanced classes in clinical research, disease management, medical diagnostics, and surgical practice. During their rotations they should choose ones that will allow them to examine and treat patients under direct supervision by experienced neurosurgeons at a teaching hospital. When they are ready to graduate they have to take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USNMLE).
When they pass the test they will have a Doctor of Medicine degree. They will now have to complete a 12 month hospital internship that will be followed by a neurosurgical residency that can take 6-8 years to complete. During the internship they will learn to develop skills that will assist them later during their careers. They will also learn how to manage patients. When they start their neurosurgical residency they will work alongside a licensed neurosurgeon to learn the techniques and skills that are essential to this field of medicine. Later in their residency they will also scrub in and assist with some surgical procedures.
To become a licensed neurosurgeon they will submit an application, submit test scores, and pay the requisite fee to their state’s medical board. Many neurosurgeons will apply for Board Certification after getting in a few years of practice. To become board certified they have to pass an exam and meet specific practicum and educational requirements.
In order to renew their license and board certification if they have it they have to be doing continuing education by choosing to sub-specialities within neurosurgery like pediatric neurosurgery or oncology. They can also choose to complete a fellowship in order to learn more about these sub-specializations. They can also attend seminars and classes that are held by professional organizations and medical schools. Continuing education will help a neurosurgeon to stay current on medical breakthroughs and technologies.
Work environment and schedule
Although they do surgeries the bulk of a neurosurgeons work day is spent out of the operating room. They spend the majority of their time seeing new patients, doing follow-ups with patients both in the office and in the hospital after surgery, studying medical charts and files, consulting with patients and families, doing research, having diagnostic exams done, ordering blood work, and so much more.
Many of the patients that a neurosurgeon see will be referrals from their primary care physician because the patient may be having headaches that are persistent, could be having trouble with motor skills or their memory, or may be developing speech problems. If the primary care physician cannot find the cause for the patient’s problems they would refer them to a neurosurgeon because these could be the first signs that something is wrong with the brain and/or nervous system. When they first meet this patient they will start by taking their medical history and then ascertaining the extent of their problems. Usually this will involve diagnostic tests and scans.
If they are not able to identify the exact cause they will then start to explore different treatment options, leaving surgery as the last treatment to use. It is the neurosurgeon’s job to make an accurate, informed decision and decide on a treatment plan. When the patient comes back for the test results the neurosurgeon will explain them to the patient and then discuss the pros and cons of the treatment plan and explain the rewards, likely outcomes, and risks.
Most neurosurgeons will either have their own practice or work with a group practice, or work in a hospital. One thing to note is that a neurosurgeon does not need to be employed by the hospital in order to use the hospital’s surgical suites. This is what neurosurgeons do if they have a private practice or work in a group practice. Many times the neurosurgeon, who has their own practice or works with a group practice, will see patients so many days during the week and on the other days they will do surgeries.
Neurosurgeons must be prepared to work a hectic schedule and long hours, as many as 80 hours a week at times, and do not have a set schedule even on the days that are set aside to see patients as they could get an emergency call and have to rush to the hospital to do surgery or check on a patient. If this happens the patients are normally rescheduled. Even if they are not on staff at the hospital they still may have to take turns being on-call and they may even be called out in the middle of the night because something has gone wrong with a patient that has just had surgery, a patient comes into the emergency room appears to have brain or spine injury from a fall or accident, or a patient with the signs of a stroke comes into the emergency room. Many neurosurgeons will spend a great deal of time researching treatments and conditions for developing new treatments and they may also conduct research trials one day a week. Working in a hospital will normally mean certain days and weekends that they are on call.
Pros and cons of being a neurosurgeon
If you want to grow into a neurosurgeon, then you’ll be in the right position to save lives. At the same time, each decision that you make is valuable and in some cases is not without a risk. Working as a neurosurgeon gets you to a great salary with great opportunities.
The hours of work are long and many times difficult, you’ll always be on calls and performing long shifts. During the process, until you actually become one of this professionals, you’ll have to pass through a long process of educational requirements. You’ll have to do hours of practice in many fields that you’ll like, or you will dislike. In this process, you’ll learn how to develop, and you’ll find out what you are good at.
You’ll have to develop certain skills to help you to hold your nerves under control and to develop that flexibility in your hands that you require. Your profit working as a neurosurgeon might not be that high due to the risks that can appear in this job like you’ll need a very high malpractice insurance.
The best time of this job is when patients are starting to come to you and be very thankful for saving their lives and making them feel better, this is actually the rewarding part in this job. Another con is when you have to deal with those insurance companies that deny or delay the legitimate claims.
The pros, which will come with this job are being respected, and you’ll also end up being well compensated. Added to all these, you encounter new equipment, and you’ll get used to new instrumentation and advanced technology.
Like in any other job the stress in this field can be pretty higher and many times can be combined with the one from the training years like when you are at a residency. Living in a small town can mean extensive calls on for a neurosurgeon as well as working harder than everyone else depending on the facility in which you are already working.
Neurosurgeon job growth
For the subsequent five to ten years the employment growth for neurosurgeons is projected at 24% rate. The job outlook for these professionals is great since the aging population is continuously growing, and so are the neurological diseases. The healthcare industry will always experience a rise in the field of physicians and surgeons due to the increase of population and the disease that many are confronting with.
The level of job satisfaction in this specialty is excellent since these professionals perform very often life-saving surgeries. Compared to other professions, the job outlook for neurosurgeons is good, since there is predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics a clear increase in the job employment for physicians and surgeons. Due to the essence of the work itself and the vital role that a neurosurgeon plays in the medical system, the employment levels in this field are set to rise in the next years in order to fulfill the health needs on a growing population.
Being a neurosurgeon is a prestigious job and offers a relatively higher salary than other medical professional salaries. One of the main reasons that is true is that in this field of medicine the work pressures and challenges are very high. Even a tiny mistake could lead to questionable situations and could leave the patient with an outcome that is different than they expected or were told it would be. The salary of a neurosurgeon, aka brain surgeon, varies and is dependent on several different facts such as the years of work experience, geographic location, medical tenure of the neurosurgeon, type of place they work for if not in private practice and any specialized qualifications. In regards to geographical location as a basis for what salary a neurosurgeon would make an example would be that if they were working in Los Angels or New York they would be earning much more than if they were working in Seattle or Miami.
On average in the United States a neurosurgeon salary for a year is $219,770. If they have many years of work experience they could earn an average yearly salary of $500,000-$700,000. What a neurosurgeon earns is calculated by the U.S. Government. In addition to the high salary there are the benefits. These can include vacation days, sick days, profit sharing, social security, retirement, 401K, cell phone since they are on call a lot, health insurance, life insurance, malpractice insurance, and so many more. What they would be would depend on where the neurosurgeon works. For private practice or a member of a group practice another thing that can affect the average yearly salary is the overhead expenses like rent, employee salaries, utilities, etc.
Salary of a neurosurgeon in 2015
In the US, the median salary that a neurosurgeon takes home is estimated at $368,010 per year. The chances of increasing in this field are higher for those that already acquired more years of experience. The salary of a neurosurgeon in 2015 will be influenced based on the same factors that increased or decreased a salary.
The education and your level of training will say their words between a common surgeon and a brilliant one. The geographical location, as well as the top paying industries, have a word to say when it comes to being hired as a neurosurgeon.
The average yearly salary for a neurosurgeon in the US reaches $219,723 per year. Those, who already gained experience in this line of work, will receive an annual salary comprised between $500,010 and $700,010 per year. This field is highly on demand and plays a significant function in the healthcare system.
Neurosurgeon Salary in 2016
In the US, neurosurgery is considered to be one of the highest well-paid specialties in the medical field. The median income for these professionals for the year 2016 is estimated to be at around $393,346 per year. When it comes to the highest paid skills, the accent is placed upon Neurosurgeon and Spine Surgery.
The starting point in the salary of a neurosurgeon is estimated to reach at $103,489 per year and climb up to $754,749 per year. The bonuses that are granted in this profession according to each individual salary are estimated to be between $210.39 and $122,340 while the profit sharing is estimated to range between $206.09 and up to $399,834. The commission that is granted can be as high as $95,112 per year.
The factors that affect and impact the incomes of these professionals are the geographical location, years of experience in the field, place of employment, industry and area of specialization. The years of experience in the field, usually generate for a neurosurgeon a higher income than an individual that has just started working in the field.
The demographic factor in this field is one that has an influential part of the earnings of a neurosurgeon. For instance, a higher salary in this field can be found in New York. Still the offset is that the costs of living and the living expenses are higher in this particular area, due to the fact that the workload is also rigorous.
The industry is another early reminded factor that affects the salary of these professionals. For instance, a neurosurgeon that is working for a specialty hospital can expect an income that reaches an average earning of around $240,010 per year. One that was hired in an outpatient care center can enjoy a great salary that is estimated to be around $235,010 per year.
However those professionals that are self-employed can expect to make a higher median yearly compensation than their counterparts that are salaried, still the first category of individuals need to pay their own health insurance and retirement.
The benefit package that is offered to a neurosurgeon includes paid holidays, 401K plans and paid vacations, liability insurances and malpractice. Those professionals that are earning the highest incomes can enjoy these benefits as well as life insurance, disability insurance, private medical insurance and other. The benefits that are granted vary based on the reputation, years of experience and the geographical location.
Neurosurgeon salary in Canada, Australia and UK
- Canada—the average yearly neurosurgeon salary ranges from CAD $154,073-CAD $293,432. On average the lowest paid neurosurgeon would earn yearly CAD $154,00 and the highest neurosurgeon would earn yearly on average CAD $294,000.
- UK—if you are in your 20’s a neurosurgeon salary yearly on average is 63,348, in their 30’s it would be 82,775, and in their 40’s and 50’s it would be 97,979.
- Australia—the average yearly neurosurgeon salary would range from AU $50,167- $207,293. There is also a bonus that figures into their salary which would be AU $503-AU $148,994.
Conclusion on neurosurgeon salary
A neurosurgeon’s salary on average yearly is $68,000 but this is just starting out or having a couple of years experience but as they work and gain more experience the salary can go up considerably. Although this is a prestigious medical field to get into and the salaries are very high make sure that you do want to become a neurosurgeon. It is a very complex field and a neurosurgeon must have patience, steady hands, be ready to give over 12 years of their life to become a neurosurgeon, and do not mind bending over an operation table for 10-12 hours or more each time they do a surgery. Yes, the starting salary is low and is probably one they could get with a less stressful job but with a few years experience they can be earning over $150,000 on average yearly.
- First Published Date: 8 July, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 20 August, 2016