Neurologists are medical specialists who are certified experts in aspects of the nervous system. There are some sub-specialties that focus only on certain disorders or certain parts of the body, while general neurologists will tackle anything related to nerve issues. There are essentially three different types of neurology duties, which include the clinical, surgical, and research aspects of neurology. Each of these areas have distinct duties, though in many areas it is not uncommon for an individual neurologist to be involved in at least two of these areas. Neurologists in rural areas especially may have to be responsible for both clinical and surgical aspects of their patients’ needs.
Clinical Neurologist Duties
The clinical neurologist is the “front line” of neurological issues. These are the specialists whom a patient will see when a neurological disorder is first suspected. Clinical neurologists are generally responsible for diagnosis, initial treatment, follow-up, and occasionally post-surgery follow-up. A clinical neurologist may deal with anything from chronic back pain and nerve impingement from scarring (a common result of repetitive motion injuries) to degenerative nerve disorders such as multiple sclerosis.
The Duties of a Surgical Neurologist
Surgical neurologists deal with most surgeries that involve the brain and spine, as well as any surgeries that may be deemed neurologically-sensitive. Many surgical neurologists have a clinical aspect to their practice as well so that they can do their own pre-surgery patient preparation and post-surgery follow-up. In very busy neurosurgical practices, post-surgery follow-up may be referred back to a neurologist whose focus is primarily clinical.
The least visible but still vitally important aspect of the duties of a neurologist is in research. Research neurologists participate in furthering the understanding of various neurological issues and disorders, as well as help develop new treatments and oversee clinical trials for treatments related to the nervous system. This research is vital to coming up with better ways of dealing with diseases that may seriously impact a sufferer’s quality of life.
How to Get an Appointment with a Neurologist
In order to see a neurologist for chronic pain or other potential issues, you must first make an appointment with a general physician such as a family doctor. The general physician will evaluate your symptoms, family medical history, work and injury history, and other relevant information. This may be accompanied by some cursory tests, but in most cases the clinical neurologist will perform all necessary testing. The general practitioner may make a suggestion of a diagnosis when they refer you to a neurologist, and send over all of the information they have gathered about your condition. Most neurologists practice on a referral-only basis in order to screen out those who may better benefit from the expertise in other specialty fields.