Shadowing a DoctorFebruary 5, 2014
Neurodiagnostic technologists undergo extensive education and training in the use of specialised equipment to monitor how well a patient’s nervous system is functioning, for easier identification and treatment of neurological problems. The EEG is the most common test performed by neurodiagnostic technologists.
Neurodiagnostic technologists are highly trained in all aspects of neurophysiology so they are able to identify normal and abnormal electrical activity in the central, peripheral and autonomic nervous systems. These professionals record electrical patterns throughout these systems and provide physicians with valuable data that is then used to diagnose and treat various neurological conditions such as headaches, dizziness, strokes, seizure disorders and degenerative brain disease.
The tests performed by neurodiagnostic technologists can also help doctors discover hidden causes of mental disorders and determine whether or not a patient is “brain dead.”
Some of the procedures that neurodiagnostic technologists perform include:
- EEGs or Electroencephalograms, which are used to evaluate brain activity
- Intraoperative neuromonitoring, which is performed to track nerve and brain function during surgery
- Long-term monitoring in order to diagnose seizures and other disorders
- Nerve conduction studies, which measure how long it takes to transmit an electrical signal along a nerve to a specific muscle
- Polysomnograms, used in the diagnosis of sleep disorders
These professionals also are responsible for maintaining and calibrating equipment and for ensuring the safety of patients and staff.
Neurologists rely on neurodiagnostic technologists to obtain precise data and analysis. In order to do this, these professionals must have not just the knowledge but also the critical thinking skills necessary to ensure that the results reported are accurate and complete.
Neurodiagnostic technologists work with patients of all ages in hospitals, physician’s offices, clinics, sleep disorder centres, epilepsy monitoring units and research establishments. Most procedures are performed in labs stocked with the equipment required to conduct various neurodiagnostic studies.
Depending on the patient’s condition and the diagnostics required, neurodiagnostic monitoring procedures can last for about an hour or two or it may require continuous monitoring for an extended period of time. Throughout that time, the neurodiagnostic technologist will take care of the patient’s comfort, answer any questions they may have about the procedure and allay their anxieties, while continuing to observe the data that is being generated and recorded by the equipment.
For patients undergoing certain surgical procedures intra-operative neuro-monitoring is necessary. In these cases, the neurodiagnostic technologist monitors the patient’s EEG right through the procedure, while providing the surgeon with ongoing information about the patient’s nerve function or brain activity.
To become a neurodiagnostic technologist, you must have obtained a high school diploma and preferably, a 2-year degree with coursework in the biological or physical sciences. Most training programs in neurodiagnostic technology span one to two years of study, including clinical work with patients. You must also have a current CPR/basic cardiac life support (BCLS) certification in order to practice.