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Specialty spotlight – neurology

Dr Emma Tallantyre, post-CCT research fellow, University Hospital of Wales, and Dr Stuart Vernon, foundation doctor at Bristol Royal Infirmary, discuss the specialty of neurology. They explain what drew them to neurology, how varied the specialty is, and also stress the importance of finding senior mentors for advice and support.

Introduction to neurology

Neurologists manage diseases affecting the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. Neurology is a hugely rewarding specialty that has been transformed in the last 20 years by new technology and interventions.

Neurology is a broad and varied specialty that holds great appeal, but misconceptions about it abound. Here is a guide to neurology's best kept secrets:

Secret 1: Neurology is more straightforward than you think
Lectures on the nervous system at medical school can be some of the most interesting but might seem quite daunting. However, in time, with good supervision, it will become much easier to understand. None of the components of making a fancy diagnosis are difficult – a good history, a targeted examination, an informed search of the literature – yet the process is made all the more satisfying by others being mystified.

Secret 2: Neurologists have effective treatments
There is good reason for neurology to hold particular appeal for individuals who enjoy uncovering diagnostic conundrums. Neurology is fascinating, but this has led to a misconception that neurology is all about diagnostics with little in the way of therapeutic intervention. The last decade has seen an explosion in the treatment options for many neurological conditions leading to a considerable shift in the workload.

Secret 3: Most neurologists are purely clinicians  research is not essential 
Research is strongly encouraged in some areas of neurology but is not essential. Many trainees are opting to go out-of-programme for opportunities such as teaching qualifications or clinical fellowships in place of research.

Secret 4: Neurologists do a lot of acute medicine
All of the evidence points towards the future of neurology being at the front door to the hospital. There will always be a need for good outpatient services for chronic conditions but for those seeking opportunities in acute medicine there will be a vital role for acute neurologists in the 21st century.

Training and working in neurology

Neurology resources

RCP resources

Historical highlights from the library, archive and museum collections

Thomas Willis (1625–1675) can claim to be the father of the specialty of neurology. Read more about his life and work in Thomas Willis: the father of neurology on the RCP library, archive and museum blog.