Thursday, March 24, 2016

Neurodiagnostics is not just a job, it is a career!

How can you go wrong with a profession like this one?  I have been enthralled with this field since 1978 when I began a one-year EEG Technology program.  Back in those days, they did not call it “Neurodiagnostics” since the only modality there was in the clinical setting was EEG. There was always nerve conduction studies, but that was an on-the-job trained extra.   But look how the field has grown!  Skills we are likely to include:  EPs, LTM, IONM, ICU monitoring, Autonomic Testing, Transcranial Doppler and there are a great variety of job settings to choose from as well. 

I know many techs who connect with instrument companies, as I did back in the 90’s to provide new user training and installation services, which I did on occasion, by contract, in addition to my regular job. I have fond memories of all the great Nicolet folks from back then, and lots of great customers too!  Many techs went from consulting to full time employees of instrument companies, working in tech support, research and design, or sales.
We can also be found in research jobs, doing studies and compiling data for grant-based research that involves neurophysiology testing. 
Some of our business-minded techs have started their own companies to provide IONM services or EEG services, working by contract in a variety of labs and hospitals.  I have always admired the courage and stamina it takes to show up in a totally unfamiliar setting, in an O.R. with a surgical team that you’ve never met, to start a long IONM case after a long early morning drive to get to the site.
Some of our most gifted techs are inspired to share their love of the field by teaching full time as training program directors, instructors and clinical preceptors.
Some techs are able to specialize in one area of neurodiagnostics:  Some just love full time intra-operative neuro-monitoring.  Some love ambulatory EEG!  As I have mentioned previously, I love neonatal and pediatric EEG!
One of the areas I found most interesting was Long Term Monitoring for Epilepsy.  It was fascinating to observe the progress from a first admission through the pre-epilepsy surgery work-up, to the Phase II recording with grids and strips, to a successful surgical resection of epileptogenic brain tissue.  There were parts of the work-up which serve as the most amazing neuro-anatomy and physiology lesson ever!  I am referring to cortical stimulation and cortical mapping, and the correlation of seizure symptoms with a focal area of the brain.

So, if you are in this field already, my advice is “Go for it!”  Learn as much as you can, pass as many board exams as you can, and never stop learning!  If your enthusiasm is flagging in one area of neurodiagnostics, try something new!   If you are not a neurodiagnostic technologist, but want to be in an allied health field that is growing and will need more techs in the future, look into it!
We have a list of formal training programs on our website at this link: Neurodiagnostic School listings
You will find schools in some states, and on-line programs to help cover the need for states where there are no colleges that offer a neurodiagnostic curriculum.  Some programs are two-years long and offer an Associate's Degree, others are one-year and offer a certificate, and we are starting to see Bachelor Degree programs, in neurodiagnostics and in IONM.  

Here is a great career video that explains how interesting our work can be!: