In this YouTube video, the illustrations and animations were lovingly crafted by award-winning medical illustrator Merlin Strangeway. Click here to see more of her work. Watch the video now to find out how to become a neurosurgeon.
This is a transcript of the video:
Neurosurgery is a very small specialty, especially within the UK.
There are two ways to become a fully-trained neurosurgeon here in the UK, the first is through a GMC accredited National Training Programme and the second is through an alternative pathway that ends with a Certificate of Eligibility for Specialist Registration (CESR).
This guide is based on the former.
Let’s say you’re living in the Uk and you’re pre-University. First you need to get into medical School. That’s a topic for another time but you need pretty good science-based A levels to get in.
Once you’re in medical School you’ve got five or six years ahead of you. Six years if you want to undertake an Intercalated BSc. At this point some medical students know whether they want to be a medic or a surgeon, which is a good starting point but its absolutely fine if you don’t know yet. Some people will already know whether they like brains by now and Some people will have known they wanted to do something brain-related even before uni.
Towards the end of medical school everyone has to apply nationally for something called the Foundation training programme. In the UK all doctors have to do this before they can even think of applying for specialty training.
“Foundation year 1 (F1) enables medical graduates to begin to take supervised responsibility for patient care and consolidate the skills that they have learned at medical school. Satisfactory completion of F1 will result in the relevant university recommending to the GMC that the doctor can be granted full registration.”
“Foundation Year 2 (F2) doctors remain under clinical supervision (as do all doctors in training) but take on increasing responsibility for patient care. In particular, they begin to make management decisions as part of their progress towards independent practice. Satisfactory completion of F2 indicates that the foundation doctor is ready to enter a core, specialty or general practice training programme.”
The selection for surgical specialties, including neurosurgery happens about three months into the F2 year.
The neurosurgery selection process in the UK is a national selection system, which means that everyone goes through exactly the same selection process and interview, for all the same jobs (which change year on year).
The initial application to be shortlisted for an interview is a paper or “white box” application that scores you based on the following criteria:
2. Clinical experience and knowledge
3. Academic skills
4. Personal skills
5. Professional integrity
6. Dedication to specialty
If you score high enough for shortlisting, you’ll be invited to interview, which is an intense and very long day in Sheffield.
The interview stations are approximately 15 minutes each and there are five of them. At each interview station you will be tested on all of the above criteria, by at least two to three consultant neurosurgeons in each station.
If you make it through this arduous process you’ll be one of the 15-20 junior doctors every year that embark on the the eight year neurosurgery training programme.
Year one consists of training in neurology, neuro intensive care and a bit of neurosurgery.
In year two you do a bit more neurosurgery at a ward based level and also do another specialty like ENT or maxillofacial surgery.
In year three you start to level up and become a neurosurgery registrar (in most places) and also undertake accident and emergency training, usually in a major trauma centre.
From year four onwards you’re a fully-fledged neurosurgery registrar, operating on elective lists and running registrar clinics for your consultant.
At ST6 level you become eligible to take the FRCS exam (Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons) which is the exam that proves that you have the knowledge and clinical decision capabilities to become a consultant.
As training ends, most registrars will undertake one or two years of fellowship training (which is subspecialist training) in an area of neurosurgery that they want to specialise in when they become a consultant.
At any point during training it’s also possible to undertake an MSc or PhD, which is 2 to 3 more years.
Completing neurosurgery training can take anywhere between eight to thirteen years to complete.