A neurologist is a doctor who treats disorders of the nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, nerves, and some of the muscles. Neurologists should not be confused with neurosurgeons, surgeons who have pursued specialized training so that they can operate on the nervous system. Neurologists and neurosurgeons may in fact work together on complex cases, with the neurologist referring a patient to a neurosurgeon for surgical treatment, while surgeons may recommend that their patients pursue follow up appointments and long term care with a neurologist after a surgery is successful.
In order to become a neurologist, someone must complete a four year undergraduate degree, obtain a medical degree, which requires another four years of training, and then complete an internship in neurology. The neurology internship takes four years, and requires an initial year of internal medicine or pediatrics, for someone who intends to be a pediatric neurologist. All told, 12 years of schooling are involved, and a neurologist may pursue a fellowship after his or her internship is complete to gain additional training.
Neurologists can work at hospitals and clinics. They treat emergent neurological conditions along with congenital issues, and chronic illnesses. Patients who are at risk for damage to their nervous systems may also be evaluated by a neurologist during their general workup, as for example when a patient is thrown by a horse and requires medical treatment. Some neurologists choose to focus on particular areas of interest, such as inherited neurological diseases, and they may work as researchers in addition to being doctors, as in the case of a neurologist who supervises studies on conditions like multiple sclerosis.
Hours for neurologists tend to be very regular, as they can set specific office or clinic hours, although some neurologists may be on call to deal with emergent neurological problems in emergency rooms, which can require attending to patient needs at odd hours. Rates of pay can be quite good for these physicians, reflecting their years of highly specialized training and the scope of diagnostic and treatment options they can wield.
Pediatric neurology, a subfield within the broader discipline of neurology, focuses on the treatment of children with neurological conditions. A pediatric neurologist may work at a children's hospital, neurological clinic, or general hospital, acting as a consultant when pediatric patients are brought in with neurological conditions. Work in this field can be especially interesting, because the nervous systems of children are still growing and developing, and this can create some intriguing clinical situations and medical issues.