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A career as a neurologist can certainly be rewarding. Aside from earning six-figure salaries, neurologists do interesting work, have relatively flexible work schedules (since they do not perform surgery, unlike neurosurgeons) and get excellent benefits, depending on where they choose to work. However, as with any high-power career, a neurologist's job has drawbacks. Know the risks associated with a career in neurology before deciding to commit to it.
Years of Training
Like all medical doctors, neurologists must go through long years of schooling. Training in neurology takes longer than in many other medical specialties because of the complex nature of diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders. Aside from burnout, risks associated with such long-term educational training include anxiety, depression and family problems such as divorce. These risks can be compounded by the financial stress of debt accumulated in medical school.
Depending on where neurologists work, their lives can be quite stressful. The vast majority of neurologists work 60 or more hours a week, often at night or on weekends. A neurologist who is working on call at a hospital must be prepared to come in to work at any time, day or night. Neurologists also spend a significant amount of time doing paperwork. The long and irregular hours can lead to loss of sleep, fatigue or illness. In addition, for those who have spouses and children, long hours away from home can lead to stresses on the family, including separation and divorce.
The nature of the diseases and conditions treated by neurologists contributes to the stress of a career in neurology. The nervous system is the most complicated biological apparatus in the human body; therefore, diagnoses or treatments associated with neurological disorders are rarely clear-cut. It is commonplace in neurology to say that "nothing is curable" because of the highly complex diseases within its scope, such as Alzheimer's, stroke, cerebral palsy and epilepsy. For people who are more comfortable with clear-cut, curable diseases and disorders, this aspect of neurology can be a major source of stress.
Malpractice lawsuits add to the pressure on neurologists and other doctors. Such lawsuits have increased sharply in recent years and target both individual doctors and their insurance companies. Many doctors perceive a lack of respect from their patients, who blame medical practitioners for death or disability.