Working life (neurosurgery)

This page provides useful information on the working week as well as any on call and other commitments, along with information on who you will work with. The attractions and challenges of the job are also in this section.

Neurosurgery is a particularly challenging surgical specialty. Our understanding of the brain and central nervous system is constantly changing and you’ll need to keep up to date with the very latest developments and research.

Your working day is going to be long – with early starts and late finishes all part of the job. Although surgery is your main responsibility, you will also be evaluating patients in outpatients’ clinics and emergency departments and attending ward rounds.

Even as a consultant you will have a high level of on call duties during evenings, nights and weekends. That’s the nature of neurosurgery – about half your work could be dealing with emergencies. You may perform several procedures a day – which can range from the straightforward to long and highly complex and long operations. Elective surgeries are sometimes cancelled due to emergencies so you’ll need to be very flexible.

Neurosurgeons work closely with other colleagues as part of a team and other hospital departments will also call upon your expertise.

Monitoring patients post-operatively is very important as complications can occur. For example following brain surgery patients may occasionally suffer blood clots or bleeding in the brain, seizures, stroke, coma or brain swelling.

You’ll also be dealing with your patients’ families to provide guidance and reassurance before and after surgery. This can at times be very emotionally demanding, particularly when things don’t go as planned.

Added to all this is your share of administrative work – including:

Neurosurgeons are usually based in large regional centres usually attached to teaching hospitals. Most of these are in or near major cities. There are 34 neurosurgical units in the UK.

The EU Working Time Directive limits the working week to 48 hours. It is also possible to work part-time once you are consultant, or to train on a less than full-time basis (conditions apply).

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