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Electroencephalographic (EEG) Technologist


There is constant activity going on in our brains. Electric impulses are constatnly transmitted from the brain to various parts of our body and nervous system. Every thought, feeling and sensation is triggered in part by your brain. People with neurological disorders have difficulties and abnormalities with brain waves and need to be monitored by specialists. Electroencephalography (EEG) is a scientific field devoted to the recording and study of the brain's electrical activity. EEG technologists use an EEG machine to record the electrical impulses transmitted by the brain and nervous system.

EEGs are used to help diagnose and evaluate head trauma, stroke, infectious disease, brain tumors, sleeping disorders, epilepsy and other medical conditions. The EEG technologist is a trained health care worker responsible for recording a patient's EEG activity. They brief the patient about the procedure, gain consent and then take a patient's medical history. Then, the EEG technologist applies small electrodes to the patient's scalp that are connected to the electroencephalograph. When reading the EEG, the technologists know what normal and abnormal brain activities look like on an electroencephalogram.

An EEG machine can also measure the effects of infectious diseases on the brain, and also determine whether individuals with mental or behavioral problems have an organic impairment such as Alzheimer's disease. They can also diagnose cerebral death (brain death), the absence of brain activity, and assess the probability of recovery from a coma.

EEG technologists are now sometimes referred to as electroneurodiagnostic technologists, which is a newer title for the same position. Nevertheless, EEG technologists generally perform resting EEGs, meaning that the patient is very relaxed when the procedure is taking place. They must choose the most appropriate combination of instrument controls and electrodes to correct for mechanical or electrical interferences that come from somewhere other than the brain, such as eye movement or radiation from electrical sources.

More and more, technologists have been performing EEGs in the operating room, which requires that they understand anesthesia's effect on brain waves. For special procedure EEGs, technologists may secure electrodes to the chest, arm, leg or spinal column to record activity from both the central and peripheral nervous systems.

The EEG is valuable in diagnosing learning disabilities or adjustment problems in children. EEG information can help surgeons determine surgical treatment of epilepsy and can assure surgeons that the brain receives enough oxygen during surgery on the arteries. It also assists in the determination of irreversible brain death, which is an important issue in transplant technology and escalating medical costs. It is important for the EEG technologist to be aware of the emotional state of the patient. Although some EEG studies are performed on sleeping or unconscious patients, many are not.
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  Interests and Skills  
Electroencephalographic technologists are interested in helping people with heart problems. They must be mature and self-confident and emotionally stable. They have excellent communication skills and can get along with people well, be patient and instil confidence. Confidence is also important in being able to think and act quickly in high stress situations. Finally, EEG technologists should enjoy finding solutions to problems and constantly dealing with people.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Obtain a patient's medical history and brief them on the procedure
  • Attach electrodes to certain places on the patient's head
  • Operate diagnostic equipment such as electroencephalographs
  • Adjust the instruments to produce the kind of recording needed
  • Prepare recordings and written reports for interpretation by neurologists
  • Check, calibrate and perform routine maintenance to diagnostic equipment
  • Train and supervise student or other electroencephalographic technologists
  • Electroencephalographic technologists either work shifts or standard weekday hours and be on-call evenings and weekends. Much of their time is spent on their feet and they may be required to do some bending and lifting to help very ill patients. In some circumstances, EEG technologists may move equipment on portable carts to patients' bedsides in wards, intensive care units and operating rooms.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Most electroencephalographic technologists work in hospitals, however some are also employed in private laboratories and clinics.

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for electroencephalographic technologists? Registered EEG technologists may take qualifying examinations in special areas such as ECG and ambulatory monitoring to change the focus of their career as a technologist. With experience, they may advance to become clinical specialists or supervisors. However, without additional education, opportunities for advancement are limited.

  Educational Paths  
Electroencephalograhic technologists must complete of a two-year college, hospital or alternative training program in EEG and cardiology technology coupled with a supervised practical training internship.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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