December 2, 2010

Training program focuses on neurodiagnostic technologies

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Neurodiagnostic Technologists Carrie Hinson and Adam Jackson perform an electroencephalogram (EEG) on patient Matthew Neary while his wife Debra Neary looks on. (photo by Joe Howell)

Training program focuses on neurodiagnostic technologies

A new allied health program for electroneurodiagnostic (END) technologists will be offered next year at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

The 18-month program, scheduled to begin in January, trains technologists to record electroencephalograms (EEGs). Classes will be small and competitive.

At the end of the program, students will be eligible to take the EEG registry exam, administered by the American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists (ABRET).

Though the focus is on EEG, students will be introduced to all END technologies, including intraoperative neuromonitoring, nerve conduction studies, evoked potential studies, epilepsy monitoring and sleep studies.

Students can opt to undergo additional training on their own in order to prepare for the certifications in the other modalities.

“We cannot teach them everything in 18 months, but we will prepare them for the EEG modality. That will get their foot in the door, and then they can choose what route they want,” said program director Riki Rager, R. EEG T.

Those routes can include monitoring nerves during surgery to ensure they are not damaged, evaluating for stroke or hemorrhage in patients in the intensive care unit who are not able to communicate, or localizing where a seizure is originating in an epilepsy patient's brain.

“Your brain is your control center, and we're the field that monitors your brain and nervous system. Doctors can get a scan to see the structures of the brain, but they can't see the function unless an END tech is at work,” Rager said.

“We're in a region where there is no training, but great demand. Our goal is to educate competent END techs to fill vacancies at Vanderbilt and surrounding hospitals.”

Students must have or be working toward an associate's degree. The program will start with lectures introducing the END field and instrumentation based on online curriculum developed by the American Society of Electroneurodiagnostic Technologists, and then move into clinical rotations.

Bassel Abou-Khalil, M.D., professor of Neurology and co-medical director of the END program, wanted to develop this program for many years. Under his guidance, the students will also rotate through neurophysiology lectures prepared for Vanderbilt University School of Medicine students.

Trey Lee, M.D., assistant professor of Neurology and co-medical director for the training program, said END technologists play a valuable role in quality and safety for patients.

“I work principally with intraoperative monitoring, and during the surgery the END tech and I are constantly conferring about data and troubleshooting,” he said. “Without the proper training, the data has no meaning. If a tech is not well-trained and knowledgeable, I can't do my job.”