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Electromyography (EMG) Technologist


Description

Electromyography (EMG) is a widely used diagnostic technique for disorders of the brain. The term electromyography generally describes the measuring of electrical activity in the brain sent out by muscles through the insertion of a needle electrode. By inserting thin needle electrodes into various muscles, EMG technologists can map out normal and abnormal signals and determine whether there has been subtle nerve damage or paralysis.

Today, EMG technology represents more methods of stimulating and recording the nervous system, besides the needles. Examples of such techniques are standard motor and sensory nerve conduction studies, repetitive nerve stimulation, needle EMG of skeletal muscles, blink reflexes, and skin responses amongst many other tests.

It is important to note that EMG technologists can perform nerve conduction studies with an electromyographer readily available for consultation but cannot actually perform needle EMG on their own.

When the patient is ready, the technologist briefs them about the procedure, to help reassure them and to discuss any questions or uncertainties regarding it. The patient must give consent in order to begin the testing and then the EMG technologist records their medical history. The technologist may help position the patient and assist in obtaining relaxation or cooperation for the needle EMG examination.

During the test, the technologist will monitor the patient and help write a report. The report must identify the problem, include a tabulation of the values obtained during the study, a statement of normality or abnormality, conclusions and the signature of an electromyographer. The technologist is not allowed to give results to the patient, no matter how much they beg for them. That part is up to the physician who is licensed to give diagnoses and treatment suggestions.

EMG technologists are expected to be knowledgeable about anatomy and physiology including neuroanatomy and functional anatomy of the limbs, head, neck and lower back. Also, they are proficient in basic nerve and muscle physiology, as it pertains to the propagation of action potentials in peripheral nerves, neuromuscular junction transmission and the electrochemical and mechanical coupling in the bones.
 
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  Interests and Skills  
Electromyography technologists are interested in helping people with medical 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 instill confidence. Confidence is also important in being able to think and act quickly in high stress situations. Finally, EMG 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
  • Operate electromyographic equipment to assist physicians in conducting electrophysiological tests such as nerve conduction velocity, muscle strength and repetitive stimulation
  • Prepare recordings and reports of findings for physicians to aid in the diagnosis of neuromuscular disorders
  • Check, calibrate and perform routine maintenance of equipment
  • Train and supervise student or other electromyography technologists
  • Electromyographic technologists either work shifts or standard weekday hours and they may 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, EMG technologists may move equipment on portable carts to patients' bedsides in wards, intensive care units and operating rooms.

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

  Long Term Career Potential  
What does the future hold for electromyography technologists? Registered EMG technologists may take qualifying examinations in special areas such as EEG 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  
Electromyography technologists must complete of a two-year college, hospital or alternative training program in EMG and cardiology technology coupled with a supervised practical training internship.
 

Sources:
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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