MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: what is a neurosurgeons life like

Date: Wed May 16 10:55:41 2007
Posted By: Mitchell Maltenfort, Staff, Neurosurgery, Thomas Jefferson University
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 1168839816.Me

Dear Justin,

I'm not a neurosurgeon but I work with the faculty and residents on research and other projects.

I once told some residents that their program made me think of building an igloo in an avalanche: the good news is that you've got plenty of material, the bad news is that you're very rushed. They liked the analogy.

Yes, they do have lives outside their job. Several of the residents are happily married with children. So are all of the faculty. But at either level, the job is very demanding in terms of time pressures.

Hell? No. Hard? Yes.

The faculty are higher on the totem pole, but don't seem to have it any easier than the residents. More status carries more responsibility.

The common coping mechanism seems to be a tight focus on the tasks at hand -- the kind of focus that I expect is a necessity when they're operating.

Some perspective: no job is perfect, and neurosurgery isn't unique in being demanding on time. You have to identify your own interests and your own balance.

You may also find in college that you want to do physical therapy, occupational therapy, or something non-medical. You might find in medical school that you get interested in neurology, psychiatry, or something wholly unrelated to neurosurgery.

I knew somebody in high school who was set on cardiology. When I met him, after he'd finished medical school, he'd decided to go into pediatrics. I knew someone else who quit medical school to go into nursing school; she wasn't flunking, she just realized she liked the different style of work.

My advice is that you treat neurosurgery, and medical school, as one option among many. It's way too early for tunnel vision.


Mitch Maltenfort

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