How to Become a Neurodiagnostic Tech
March 12, 2021
The exciting and rapidly evolving field of neuroscience is on the rise and offers diverse career opportunities that pay off well. So it doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for a job change or are already working in the allied healthcare sector. By starting as a neurodiagnostic technologist, you will secure a stable position with great prospects and earning potential.
This practical and comprehensive guide lays out all the steps you need to take to become a Neurodiagnostic Tech. Learn everything you need to know about this job, training programs, and fields of specialization.
Table of Contents
- What Is a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
- What Does a Neurodiagnostic Technologist Do?
- Neurodiagnostic Tech Skills
- Where Do Neurodiagnostic Techs Work?
- Why Become a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
- Steps to Become a Neurodiagnostic Tech
- How Long Does It Take to Become a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
- Neurodiagnostic Technologist Certification
- COVID and Neurodiagostic Techs
- Neurodiagnostic Technologist Careers
- Launch Your Career as a Neurodiagnostic Technologist
What Is a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
Neurodiagnostic technology is staying at the forefront of new developments in contemporary medicine. The field combines science and technology to help with diagnosing neurological diseases and problems with sleep habits.
Neurodiagnostic techs (NDT), often referred to as EEG technologists, are an integral part of the allied healthcare community. They assist with discovering and treating abnormalities by performing noninvasive neurological tests. Neurodiagnostic techs use various methods and specialized equipment to aid in evaluating and examining the nervous system.
What Does a Neurodiagnostic Technologist Do?
EEG techs are medical professionals who use specialized equipment to monitor and diagnose brain disorders. Let’s explore the most common neurodiagnostic procedures and tests they perform.
Electroencephalography testing (EEG)
Electroencephalography or EEG is perhaps the most recognized form of testing. Neurodiagnostic techs use an EEG machine, which records and studies electrical activity in the brain and nervous system. The procedure involves attaching electrodes to the scalp to measure activity in the brain.
The result of an EEG test shows up in the form of wavy lines on a chart – we’ve all seen these on ER or Gray’s Anatomy. This allows for the detection of any abnormal activities and thus giving an accurate diagnosis.
Evoked Potentials (EP)
These tests deliver a stimulus to the human body while Neurodiagnostic techs monitor the response. If there is damage to a neurological pathway, EP tests should expose a delay or abnormality. There are three main types of EP tests available to help diagnose a problem:
- BAEP (brainstem auditory evoked potentials): A series of clicks in each ear
- SEP (sensory evoked potentials): Short electrical pulses on one of your limbs
- VEP (visual evoked potentials): Viewing a pattern on a screen
Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (IONMs)
Undergoing surgery always involves risks. To reduce the chance for those that can result in irreversible nerve damage or even death, a technician needs to monitor the electrical activity during the surgical procedure.
The American Society of Neurophysiologic Monitoring says the practice has evolved considerably in recent decades and the ultimate goal is to protect the patient. If you like the idea of working in surgery, IONMs will be of particular interest to you.
Long Term Monitoring (LTM)
Long-term monitoring is the diagnostic technique of recording the EEG over long periods. The procedure helps to document epileptic seizures or other episodic disturbances of neurologic function.
LTM is used primarily for monitoring patients with epilepsy, but it is also gaining wider application in the evaluation of sleep disorders. Thanks to the technological advancements in medicine, technologists can perform long-term monitoring through wireless EEG devices with better comfort and mobility for their patients.
Nerve Conduction Study (NCS)
Like evoked potential tests, this test involves delivering a stimulus to a nerve. Nerve Conduction Studies are designed to test the speed of a response (or lack of such). Ultimately, this type of study tests how effective the body is at sending the necessary signals it needs to function properly.
If the nervous system sparks your interest more than solely the brain, this could be a good route to take.
If you’re interested in sleep disorders, polysomnography is the practice you should consider to study them.
The National Sleep Foundation lists more than 30 sleep disorders, including those that relate to abnormal behavior, sleep and wake patterns, and disease. Sleep talking, insomnia, and bed-wetting are all mentioned in their list. Studies are used to monitor brain waves during sleep, as well as responses like eye movement to try to diagnose the problem.
Neurodiagnostic Tech Skills
What are the most important skills for Neurodiagnostic technologists? They work with specialized equipment to analyze and monitor various functions of the brain. The Neurodiagnostic techs must have critical thinking and good reasoning skills to provide accurate data and analysis.
Additionally, such specialists need to have computer literacy to be able to use various devices for diagnosis and tests.
Neurodiagnostic techs must pay attention to detail, which is required to monitor patients with neuro disorders. Having a genuine concern for others is another essential interpersonal skill to have.
The sensitive nature of their patients’ health problems requires being able to handle tough situations. For example, EEG technologists often get to work with difficult patients and their concerned families. Last but not least, Neurodiagnostic techs also need to be skilled at communicating because they have to collaborate with other medical professionals daily.
Where Do Neurodiagnostic Techs Work?
You can find Neurodiagnostic tech jobs in a variety of locations like hospitals and clinics, private practices, nursing homes, and outpatient facilities. Sleep study technicians may find work alongside researchers in laboratories. Each of these establishments is quite different.
EEG techs could be working in large or small teams, busy or quiet environments, individually or in a team with other specialists. The choice is personal and can depend on something as simple as physical location, or more complex factors, like personality and qualifications.
Just because you find a career in one location doesn’t mean you’ll be in one place all day. Neurodiagnostic technologists might work next to the patient’s bedside (like during brainwave monitoring for epilepsy), at a neurology clinic, or in the operating room alongside surgical teams.
They can even find remote or work-from-home opportunities. At-home positions typically involve long-term monitoring (LTM) for detecting and reporting EEG abnormalities.
Whatever your personal work preferences, you’ll be able to find an allied healthcare career that suits your needs.
Why Become a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
There are many reasons to look at a career as a neurodiagnostic technologist. Some of the factors worth considering involve a quick path to the workplace, excellent pay, high demand for trained workers, and a flexible working environment.
Neurodiagnostic Technologist Salary
EEG techs are enjoying high salaries and promising job opportunities across the US. A neurodiagnostic technologist’s hourly rate ranges anywhere from $16 to $31, with an average of around $23.52 per hour.
Neurodiagnostic techs generally earn the average American wage or higher while doing a job that they love. Their pay varies by location, experience, extra certification, and working environment.
Neurodiagnostic Technologist Job Outlook
The overall job outlook for neurodiagnostic technologists is expected to remain excellent during the next decade. This is due to the aging baby boomer generation and longer life expectancy.
According to the occupation’s summary report, the job growth for neurodiagnostic technologists is expected to be 8% between now and 2029. The projected growth is much faster than average. Yet more proof that becoming an EEG tech can be a great career move for you.
Steps to Become a Neurodiagnostic Tech
Is it easy to become a neurodiagnostic technologist? There are a few steps you need to take in order to become one.
Research Neurodiagnostic Technologist Training Programs
Before jumping into neurodiagnostic studies, you need to research and analyze neurodiagnostic tech programs in your area. Make a list of pros and cons to help shortlist the best options for you.
Common Neurodiagnostic Tech Program Requirements
Once you’ve chosen the right program, you’ll have to apply and get accepted. If your neurodiagnostic technologist school has rolling admissions, you can apply as soon as the program start dates are made public.
You may be required to enroll in person or online. To get the process started, make sure you schedule a virtual or in-person appointment with an enrollment specialist. In addition to submitting all required enrollment documents, you may need interview with a department head and pass an entrance exam (e.g., Wonderlic SLE or Accuplacer).
Note: The minimum requirements may only be a high school diploma and passing an entrance exam, but most neurodiagnostic technologist training programs have a selective admission process. Stronger applicants usually have a high GPA and a background in health sciences.
Explore Financial Aid Options for Your Neurodiagnostic Tech Training
Students can submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine if they are eligible for federal financial aid. Applicants will be required to provide a variety of information, including their family income, to determine their eligibility. Most students will receive an estimate of their financial aid eligibility within a week.
It may seem daunting, but it only takes about an hour to fill out the information required to apply for government assistance. Make sure that you submit your FAFSA as early as possible prior to starting your program.
Additionally, it may be possible to apply for scholarships, private loans, or even interest-free payment plans (through your training course) if your training program isn’t eligible for federal financial aid.
Enroll in a Neurodiagnostic Tech Training Program
Waiting might be the hardest part of applying to an EEG technologist training course. Most schools with rolling admissions expedite the process and usually inform applicants within a few weeks of receiving their application.
Once you are accepted into the neurodiagnostic technologist training of your choice, you complete the enrollment process. Make sure to have your financing sorted by that time.
Attend Your Orientation
At first glance, orientation may seem like a boring event – but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is an opportunity to learn about your training program’s requirements and procedures. Use this time to clear up any questions as you might not have the time when your neurodiagnostic technologist training begins.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Neurodiagnostic Technologist?
There are a few pathways to become a neurodiagnostic tech. In the past, cross-training was offered to healthcare technicians working in hospitals. Now most hospitals and healthcare facilities require formal training. Formal training is offered through degree programs and certificate programs. An associate degree in this field typically takes two years to complete.
A neurodiagnostic technologist certificate program is a great option for students who want to complete their programs in a shorter period of time. Neurodiagnostic training is among the allied health certificates you can complete in about 1 year!
Complete Your Clinical Internship
The clinical internship is a mandatory part of the curriculum for most neurodiagnostic technologist programs. It is usually the final component of your training. Your internship is also a crucial part of securing an entry-level EEG tech job. In this real-world environment, you will have a qualified mentor who helps you develop your skill sets. In addition to gaining the necessary experience, enthusiastic and competent EEG students can receive lucrative job offers from the hospitals and clinics providing the internship.
Neurodiagnostic Technologist Certification
Upon successful completion of your EEG training, you may be eligible for professional certification through ABRET (American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists). ABRET has offered neurodiagnostic credentialing for over fifty years and leads the way in terms of professional conduct. They offer certification exams for several different neurodiagnostic specialties.
Eligibility for certification exams is determined by the training program you completed. The best training programs are either approved by ABRET or accredited by CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs).
A neurodiagnostic tech is a profession that offers diverse opportunities. Make sure to select a comprehensive training program so you can specialize in the area that you enjoy the most.
COVID and Neurodiagnostic Techs
EEG technicians were among other allied health professionals saving lives at the frontline following the COVID-19 outbreak. As the majority of them are considered essential workers, they could hardly miss a day of work during the crisis.
Neuro techs had to adapt to various changes often defined by their workplace. Due to the social distancing and self-isolation rules in place, the demand for remote working and home-based NDTs increased as well.
Along with those working extra hours in the hospitals and clinics, many specialists had to learn to do their job from home or while traveling to serve the patients' needs.
Neurodiagnostic Technologist Careers
Training to become a neurodiagnostic tech can open opportunities for growth and even specialization in different fields. As you progress through your education and career, you can take up various roles like intern, entry-level technologist, certified technologist, or perhaps manager or supervisor of a lab! See how EEG jobs compare to other neurology careers before making your final choice.
The primary role of an EEG technologist involves running diagnostic tests to assist doctors with their diagnoses (that ranges from epilepsy to sleep disorders). Those professionals are also responsible for obtaining patient medical records, positioning patients, analyzing test results, and maintaining the EEG equipment.
Neurophysiology techs are concerned with the monitoring and investigation of function in the central and peripheral nervous system. They perform neurodiagnostic testing and obtain interpretable recordings following the established policies and procedures.
Electromyography or EMG technicians work with physicians to diagnose particular health problems, such as brain disorders. They assist with the operation of EMG instruments to record electrical activity in peripheral nerves.
Before EMG techs assist with any procedures, they need to explain them to the patients. They are also responsible for preparing the patients for the procedure, which involves applying a conductive paste to the area that will be tested and attaching recording devices to the body. Upon successful completion of the test, they remove electrodes and clean the paste applied to the skin.
Sleep techs work with people who have trouble sleeping. They use specialized equipment such as EEGs, EKGs, or EMGs. These experts monitor patients' breathing and brain waves, as well as their eye movement during sleep. Sleep techs also perform Long Term Monitoring (LTM) when needed. Based on their observations, they provide diagnosis and treatment appropriate for the age of the patient. Most sleep techs graduate from a training program that focuses primarily on polysomnography.