Just before surgery, I decided to buy a few books for my time in the hospital. Both were written by neurosurgeons about what it’s like to do their jobs:
- Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: a brain surgeon exposes life on the inside by Katrina Firlik
- When the Air Hits Your Brain: tales from neurosurgery by Frank Vertosick Jr.
I wanted to better understand my neurosurgeon’s life. What does it feel like to do that kind of job? What are the implications of that kind of career field experiences when it comes to decision-making about particular patients?
The books have been fascinating and helpful. Both have emphasized strongly that they want people to understand that while neurosurgeons have the reputation for being geniuses, what they really are is regular people with very steady hand-eye coordination who have an exceptionally stressful, high-stakes job. Vertosick also emphasizes that a certain amount of psychopathology is necessary to hold yourself together in a job where your actions are often going to result in the death of the person on whom you are operating.
Dr. Ferreira was just promoted to Chief of Neurosurgery at University of Washington Medical Center, so I believe he’s particularly knowledgeable compared to many neurosurgeons. It would be foolish to use others’ thoughts and experiences about their careers to make assumptions about his; but it is good to have a feel for what it means, in a general way, for someone to go through the process of becoming a neurosurgeon… what their days as residents are like, and what their everyday activities include. Fascinating stuff.