What is Neurology?
Neurology is a medical specialty involving the management of conditions affecting the brain and nervous system. The range of patient groups in neurology is incredibly broad and this is part of the appeal of the specialty.
What kind of patients do neurologists see?
The most common problems we see in our new patients in clinic are headache, weakness, tingling and dizziness. Our long-term patients include those with multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, dementia and neuropathies. There are also lots of rare diseases – even very experienced neurologists see cases that challenge their diagnostic skills on a regular basis. This means that not all neurologists need to be alike: the skill mix for an academic neurologist working in motor neurone disease might be very different from that for a stroke neurologist running a hyperacute stroke unit.
But if your strengths include logical reasoning in the face of complex information, communication skills in difficult situations and psychological-mindedness then neurology might be the career for you!
Find out more
If that has piqued your interest you can meet more about what to expect from a career in neurology in this ABN Guide to Becoming a Neurologist (below) and from the Royal College of Physicians.
There is also an ABNT Mentoring Programme which has been set up to provide support for junior doctors interested in pursuing a career in neurology. Information on ST3 recruitment may be found here.
ABN Guide to Becoming a Neurologist
What does a neurologist do?
Neurology is a varied job, especially in training, including acute stroke thrombolysis, neuro-intensive care, management of inpatients with neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, complicated epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease, neuro-rehabilitation, and a lot of outpatient work, including the care of patients with headache, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and many rare conditions, or investigation of unexplained symptoms.
Neurology is a specialty where the diagnostic process relies heavily on good history taking and meticulous examination, which makes it very clinical, and means a lot of direct patient contact. Relevant investigations are important, but there are fairly few practical procedures.
Multidisciplinary working is really important in Neurology – the medical model has its limitations for many of the chronic diseases we treat, and the expertise of physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists is invaluable. Many specialist services run multi-disciplinary clinics, which work well for both patients and staff.
Why choose neurology?
Neurology is a hugely rewarding speciality, which is rapidly developing and changing. There are many new treatments available which are changing the outcomes for patients with both acute conditions such as stroke, and chronic disability such as multiple sclerosis. As a result there is a wide range of working environments and styles. This leads to varied training, and flexibility in final job choices.
The structure of neurology training:
Neurology is one of the major medical sub-specialties. Specialist training occurs after core medical training (IM 1-3) following competitive application. Training is under redesign at the moment but is likely to consist of 4-5 years after IM3 including one year of internal medicine.
How to demonstrate an interest:
Knowing you are interested early is great as it means you have plenty of time to find out whether it is right for you, and to get involved in projects and opportunities which will help you to secure your training number. There are lots of opportunities to demonstrate a commitment to neurology from undergraduate level onwards, and plenty of opportunities for awards and prizes.
Below are some suggestions of resources that contain more information, good opportunities, and a list of people you can contact for more information or to take your interest further.
For medical students and foundation doctors:
ABN: Association of British Neurologists
Student membership and junior membership (for junior doctors who are not trainees) is available. There is an undergraduate essay prize, as well as prizes awarded at the annual meeting for the best platform, audit and poster. Relevant projects undertaken within your local department are well suited to presentation here.
NANSIG: Neurology and NeuroSurgery Interest Group
Has a website with information for students. Here you can find details on careers days, conferences and learning resources. NANSIG also have University Representatives, which are a good way of developing your role in a leadership position.
National Undergraduate Neuroanatomy Competition (NUNC). The NUNC is run in Southampton and offers the opportunity for securing a prize.
BASP: British Association of Stroke Physicians
There is a medical student essay prize including the opportunity to present at the BASP training meeting.
RSM: Royal Society for Medicine
There is no specific neurology essay prize, but ones for broad themes within medicine that are relevant to neurology, as well as a specific geriatrics and sleep essay prize.
For Senior House Officers and Core medical trainees:
The ABNT (Association of British Neurologists Trainee committee):
This is the trainee committee for the ABN, which exists to represent neurologists in training. They organise training days, advertise clinical and research posts and run a mentorship scheme for junior doctors who are aspiring neurologists.
European Academy Of Neurology
This is a Europe wide collaboration of Neurologists and neurological societies. The EAN runs an annual conference, several neurology courses, and publishes relevant guideline online as well as the European Journal of Neurology. It is also the home of ebrain- an online learning resource and self-assessment tool for neurologists of all stages of training.
Your educational and clinical supervisors:
Even if they are not neurologists your supervisors will have useful suggestions for valuable projects, and potentially helpful people to contact. Small projects can go far and all the points you have on your CV in advance of applications will help to get a training number.