Neurosurgeons earn attractive salaries and the respect of those who perceive them as intelligent and skillful, and the field provides opportunity for women. Approximately two-thirds of women neurosurgeons have gained certification since 2000. However, these medical doctors, who perform highly technical and vital surgeries on the brain and nervous system, also must deal with some negatives. Before you consider pursuing a career in neurosurgery, you should educate yourself about the drawbacks of working in this medical field.
While the number of women certified in neurosurgery has increased since 2000, women still face gender inequality in the workplace, according to an article written by Arizona-based neurosurgeon Robert Spetzler. Sexism remains an issue and women are underrepresented in leadership positions in academic and practicing neurosurgery, maintains Spetzler, and they still face some hurdles in terms of recruiting residents and hiring and promoting board-certified neurosurgeons. Women also have fewer role models available to help them through the training process.
Neurosurgeons must adhere to busy work schedules, and that may pose significant challenges for women trying to balance a career with family obligations. The job can require you to work up to 80 hours per week with shifts as long as 24 hours, according to the American Medical Association. In addition to performing surgeries, these doctors must manage staff, review new medical research, assess patients’ conditions and review patients’ post-operative conditions by making hospital rounds and office visits. Neurosurgeons often perform surgeries before dawn breaks, and doctors are frequently on call to respond to emergencies at night, on weekends and during holidays.
Working as a neurosurgeon can bring stress. According to the American College of Surgeons, neurosurgeons must perform long and technically difficult surgeries. Neurosurgeons also have the unpleasant job of breaking bad news to patients and their families, and they must deal with the emotional stress of treating children with severe injuries and illnesses. Approximately 20 percent of surgery residents do not complete their residency training due, primarily, to burnout. These neurosurgeons flee to careers in other medical fields or in different areas altogether. Those who fight through burnout may develop dysfunctional relationships with fellow medical professionals, patients and their own families.
To work as a neurosurgeon, you must endure a rigorous and lengthy training program that includes completing a bachelor's degree and four years of medical school. According to the organization Women in Neurosurgery, the American Board of Neurological Survey also requires you to complete six years of residency. For women, the long training process may interfere with or delay plans to have children. Additionally, some hospitals may choose not to hire women for fear that they will drop out of the residency program if they become pregnant.
- American Association of Neurological Surgeons: Young Neurosurgeons
- Women in Neurosurgery: So, You Want to Be a Neurosurgeon?
- New York University Langone Medical Center: Department of Neurosurgery: How Do I Become a Neurosurgeon?
- American College of Surgeons: Neurological Surgery
- American College of Surgeons: The Psychosocial Toll of a Surgical Career
- American Medical Association: What Are the Costs of Duty Hour Limits?
- American Journal of Neurological Science: Progress of Women in Neurosurgery
- Women in Neurosurgery: Who We Are