Neurodiagnostic Technologists (NDTs) employ specialized equipment to determine how effectively a patient’s nervous system is functioning. They identify normal and abnormal electrical activity in the central nervous, autonomic and peripheral nervous systems. The test results they gather enable physicians to diagnose and treat conditions such as degenerative brain diseases, headaches, dizziness, seizure disorders, strokes, mental disorders and sleep disorders. By recording electrical patterns throughout these systems, neurodiagnostic technologists provide valuable data that a physician will use to diagnose and treat conditions such as epilepsy, motor neuron diseases, seizure disorders, strokes and degenerative brain disease.
The tests performed by neurodiagnostic technologists can also help doctors uncover hidden causes of mental disorders and determine whether a patient is “brain dead.”
The most common tests performed by NDTs are electroencephalograms to assess the quality and/or presence of brain activity. Polysomnography is used to assess and treat sleep disorders. NDTs are frequently included in operating room teams, where they monitor patients’ brain activities during surgery. The majority of NDTs work in acute care hospitals, but they also practice in clinics, physician offices, epilepsy monitoring units and sleep centers.
Other procedures a neurodiagnostic technologist might perform include:
- Intraoperative neuromonitoring, which tracks brain and nerve function during surgery
- Long-term monitoring in epilepsy and intensive care unit/critical care continuous EEG, used to diagnose seizures and other disorders
- Evoked potential studies, in which the technologist measures neurological responses to external stimuli to trace electrical pathways
- Nerve conduction studies, which measure the time it takes to send an electrical signal along a nerve to a specific muscle
- Magnetoencephalography to detect and record magnetic fields associated with electrical activity in the brain
- Autonomic function testing, to detect autonomic system dysfunction.
The ideal NDT possesses acumen for technology, excellent oral communication skills, clear judgment, strong critical thinking skills and a penchant for accuracy. Neurologists depend on neurodiagnostic technologists to provide accurate data and analysis. The neurodiagnostic technologist must, therefore, have the knowledge, judgment and critical thinking skills to ensure that the results reported are accurate and complete.
Neurodiagnostic technologists work in hospitals, specialized sleep and epilepsy labs, private practice, independent clinics, patient homess, educational institutions, research facilities and equipment design, sales and manufacturing companies. Most procedures are performed in labs supplied with the necessary equipment required to conduct neurodiagnostic studies. NDTs are typically paid on an hourly basis and are eligible for overtime, health, vacation and pension/401K benefits. NDTs usually work 40-hour weeks, but schedules vary from “as needed” to eight- and 12-hour shifts.hh
For NDTs to commence practice, employers might require candidates to receive an Associate’s Degree from a program that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Employers also strongly encourage that graduates sit for a certification exam sponsored by the American Board of Registration of Neurodiagnostic Technologists and evoked potential Technologists. Neurodiagnostic technologists are typically strong in math, science, biology, computer and language.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically recognize NDT as a profession because of the diversity of practice within the profession. However, the BLS forecasts that similar professions will grow from 22-25 percent between 2016 and 2026 or twice as fast as the average profession in the U.S. There is a continuous need for well-educated neurodiagnostic technologists, and the demand grows as new labs open and existing labs expand.
How does it feel to be an NDT?
They are highly respected by their health care teams for their very specialized skill set and contributions to patient care. NDTs take less satisfaction from patient relationships but receive great rewards from their mastery of specialized technology and processes. At times, NDTs literally measure the presence of life or death.