In popular culture, the term "brain surgeon" is used to describe a very smart person, and for good reason. In order to excel at neurosurgery, a person must be in top form intellectually, physically and emotionally. Neurosurgeons perform delicate and time-intensive work on the brain and spinal cord, a job that requires many years of training and strong emotional fortitude.
Like any other doctor, a neurosurgeon must graduate from medical school and complete a one-year internship. He must then spend six to seven years in a neurosurgery residency and pass the examinations required to receive an ABNS, or American Board of Neurological Surgery, certification. Many neurosurgeons also spend one or two years in a fellowship for further specialization.
Being physically fit is a requirement to be a neurosurgeon. Many neurosurgeons will work 10 to 12 hours a day and also be on call some nights and weekends, so being fit enough to withstand fatigue is a must. Surgeries usually last three to four hours, but some more delicate surgeries can exceed 10 hours, requiring a neurosurgeon to be able to stand a long time without tiring.
Remaining cool under intense pressure is the hallmark of a successful neurosurgeon. Because surgeries can be long, delicate and strenuous procedures with unexpected complications, a neurosurgeon must be able to take everything in stride and think calmly even when she is exhausted. Maturity is also important, because the road to becoming a neurosurgeon is difficult. It often requires the sacrifice of personal time and recreation for the end goal.
A neurosurgeon must be able to analyze and think in a three-dimensional orientation. This means that because a neurosurgeon works around the brain, blood vessels, spinal cord and nerves, he needs to be able to analyze the spatial relationship among all these systems in order to apply successful surgical techniques and develop treatments. He needs to be able to think beyond seeing something on paper to understanding the intricacies of how these systems work with each other.
Because a neurosurgeon does not spend all her time in the operating room, she must also be able to work well with people. This includes both the surgical team and patients. As the leader, she must foster a productive work environment among her team, and must deal with interpersonal issues that might arise among team members. She also must be able to manage relationships with patients, displaying empathy for their situations and helping them to feel comfortable with her.