What Drives You to Volunteer?
Reading the news, there is always somewhere to contribute money, offer assistance and reach out beyond your own home to aid those who need it. This quarter, we are going to highlight opportunities we already contribute to or would like to do some day. I personally would love to do overseas medical mission work at some point, maybe after the kids are grown.
I already do a little volunteering here and there and I love it. If it paid the bills, I would be volunteering full time. Starting as a kid, I found a love for helping others with no expectation of payment or reward of any kind. It is just something I have a passion for. This quarter, we asked the Special Interest Section Leaders what drives them to volunteer those extra minutes of their day? What keeps them volunteering for ASET and other organizations?
As always, if you need anything, just write/call or message me. I’m around.
Petra, BS, R. EEG/EP T., FASET
ACUTE & CRITICAL CARE
By Sabrina Faust, BS, R. EEG/EP T., CNIM, CLTM
Volunteer work within the field of Neurodiagnostics is vital to sharing best practices in the field and can be so rewarding! When I first entered the field 15 years ago, I was truly inspired by all of the great mentors that I had the pleasure of working with and was encouraged to get more involved in the field by volunteering my time and talents. My first endeavor was to join my local state society ISET, and I began networking with those leaders to offer assistance where it could be of most use. I was soon nominated to join the ISET board as Secretary which I was most honored to accept. And after having served two years in the Secretary roll, I was once again nominated and voted in to serve as President for the organization. I learned a lot in that time about the importance of giving back and that we all have something of value that we can learn from each other. I found that volunteering within my field of study allowed me to expand my own professional knowledge and it provided me the opportunity to meet other colleagues in the field.
During my time serving my local state society, I was afforded another opportunity to serve as a board examiner for ABRET. I had the pleasure to assist with multiple oral exams for both EEG and EP boards. This soon expanded to additional opportunities with the board to participate in written exam reviews as a subject matter expert. After many years of volunteering and serving ABRET, I was nominated and voted in to serve on the Board of Directors. At present time, I have served two terms on the board, currently serve as the President for the next two years and will have served seven years in all by the time my term ends as Past President.
Volunteering in the field is also a wonderful method for improving self-confidence. Look for opportunities to share your knowledge and experiences with others. The first time I spoke at a meeting I can remember how nervous I was, and I found that everyone was so supportive and encouraging. If you haven’t had an opportunity to attend an educational conference I encourage you to put it on your to-do-list immediately! In addition to ASET, many states have local society meetings that hold conferences annually and there are several regional societies that serve multiple states. I have had the opportunity to attend many of these and I am always amazed by the great knowledge that is shared by all the fantastic speakers!
If you are interested in volunteering and leadership opportunities, I encourage you to begin by signing up for the ASET/ABRET Leadership Academy. These online modules were developed by both organizations to prepare volunteers with the leadership skills necessary for serving both organizations and the field of Neurodiagnostics. Enrollment is open throughout the year and graduates are recognized and honored each year at the ASET annual conference. Join today – I think you will find the skills learned will also prove to be of value when applied to your current day-to-day professional work!
By Jennifer Carlile, R. EEG T.
Interesting 3-day Ambulatory EEG case study:
Thirteen-year-old, left handed female, presenting with daily staring spells and a single generalized seizure. Per patients’ mother, patient has daily staring spells that lasts seconds at a time and have been occurring since birth. Patient’s mother stated about 1 month ago, patient had an episode of +loss of consciousness followed by generalized tonic/clonic activity lasting 10-25 minutes. No aura, no incontinence noted. Afterwards patient was very tired and amnestic of event. PMH: CP, Seizures, Autism, Insomnia and maternal grandmother has seizures. Current medication list: Ethosuximide, Banzel, Clonazepam, Olanzapine, Trazodone. Patient has had multiple uneventful routine EEGs. During this recording session, the patient was staying with her maternal grandparents while mother was working. Detailed instructions for ambulatory monitoring were given to the patient’s mother, both verbal and written. After 3 days of recording, there were 7 push button events and 192 seizure files. Unfortunately, neither the mother nor grandparents communicated with each other as when or why to press the event marker for the patient’s staring episodes. Fortunately, the monitoring session captured abnormalities even though the patient’s mother stated as far as she is aware, “…there were no intentional push button events, if there were any, they were accidents”. After downloading the data, the technologist questioned the mother and then the mother questioned the grandparents. Luckily, the grandparents stated, “Oh yes, we pressed the black button when we thought she was staring.” Communication is everything…right?
Click the photos below to enlarge.
The board-certified epileptologist read this as abnormal; bifrontal L>R epilepsy, no clear seizures were recorded. The spike wave discharges were seen in bursts and noted that there was sustained tachycardia of greater than 110 beats per minute.
By Marcia Hawthorne, R. EEG T., CAP
It’s hard to find a charitable cause or volunteer opportunity for Autonomic Testing because it is such a new field. The most interesting thing to me about the autonomic testing world is that there is still so much to learn. When searching for “autonomic testing” on the internet very little information is found on the testing itself. How cool is it to be part of something so groundbreaking?!
The Neurodiagnostics field in general is changing every day. The human body is so complex, especially the brain. People ask me what I do and I always go into way too much detail because I love what I do. I always know it’s time to go onto a new subject because the person I’m talking to ends up with that glazed look in their eyes, and I know you know what I’m talking about.
The Neurodiagnostics field is one to be proud of. I will continue to help in any way that I can. For now I will continue to support our field and our patients by participating in our local Walk for Epilepsy and the Walk to Defeat ALS. Our department also does several bake sales & sub sales each year to support these causes and others, such as Autism and Multiple Sclerosis.
By Pat Lordeon, R. EEG T., FASET
I have to admit, I am one of those folks who greatly admire people who volunteer their time, talents and skills to different projects, but who personally finds it hard to fit such altruistic pursuits into my schedule. I would like to be that person, truly I would, but I’m not certain I’m cut out for it. I can’t pound a nail straight so any houses I build will fall down in 24 hours; I can only cook certain things so bake sales are not for me; I’m not creative so that leaves out anything that requires arts and craft skills. I hate to travel so forget going to a remote village on the other side of the world. Long ago I realized there are certain folks whose job it is to cheer on the volunteers… and that’s me!
Now, that’s not to say that I don’t volunteer. I do, just not in such a big time manner. Like most of you, I started as a child, staying after school to help the teacher. My family was active in our church, and that was another way to volunteer. Church choir, church organist, parish festival…. I helped with all of these and more. Back then, it didn’t seem like volunteering… it was just fun. As I got older and life became busier, my volunteering took a different route. Now I volunteer my time to techs who are preparing to take their board exams. We work together, one on one, as many times as we can make our schedules overlap. There is nothing in the world that compares to the thrill of hearing that the tech you have mentored has passed their ABRET boards. Their success becomes your success.
I also offer my time to ASET, and have done so for many years now. They have accepted my offers and asked for more. This has resulted in a wonderful (at least for me) partnership in which I have learned many things, challenged myself, stepped out of my comfort zone and had a great time doing it! I have lectured at ASET conferences, written an article for The Neurodiagnostic Journal, act as Assistant Editor for the journal, write for the quarterly ASET newsletter and am a member of several committees. Of course, I didn’t start out doing all of this… it just gradually happened. And that’s true for most of the folks who volunteer for ASET…. one thing leads to another. For those of you who have not extended your time to ASET yet, I can only say: What are you waiting for???? You will never regret it. It is fun, educational, and self-fulfilling.
Although I sometimes regret not doing “traditional” volunteer work, I feel that the donation of time I give to ASET is a fair substitute. Time is more precious than money, and any gift of time is a gift from the heart. The folks at ASET work tirelessly to help Neurodiagnostic Techs like you and me. If you’re looking for an opportunity to “pay it forward”, all you have to do is complete and return the volunteer form. There is a place on the form that asks you what you are interested in doing. ASET will pair you up with the committee you are most suited for, based on the options you select on the volunteer form. The committees are composed of volunteers like you and they are always looking for more help. You don’t have to be a registered tech to volunteer with ASET. You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room. You DO have to be willing to put yourself out there and become a part of something that is bigger than you. ASET will guide you on the way. But the first step is up to you. Take it.
By Kathy Johnson, R. EEG/EP T., RPSGT, FASET
Our topic for this edition of the newsletter is volunteering. I have to admit my volunteerism has been much less dramatic than many of our colleagues who travel the world to help set up EEG labs or provide clean drinking water or save the whales—bless them for all they do. The bulk of my volunteering has been for our professional societies, like ASET and my state and regional societies. I won’t bore our readers with a recitation of my small contributions but rather I would like to use this platform (soapbox maybe?) to point out the benefits you might experience from volunteering for ASET. In the interest of transparency, I will divulge that I have a large conflict of interest, namely the fact that I am involved with the Volunteer and Leadership Development Committee, so I may have ulterior motives.
So, why would anyone spend time volunteering for ASET? There are many reasons and I will name a few for you.
Payback is great… If you are in this profession of Neurodiagnostics you are one lucky duck. While our specialty is small compared to some others, we make up for it in dedication, enthusiasm and caring. In my 44 year career, I have not met any other group of medical professionals who are more passionate about their job than NDT technologists. Once you enter into this exclusive club, you are likely hooked for life and as the saying goes, if you are doing something you love, you will never work a day in your life. So volunteering is a way to pay back.
Learn something new by volunteering… I have learned so much by working with the ASET team, both officers, committee chairs, members and the office staff. From how to organize a conference and to how to run a board meeting to the inner workings of bylaws and standards of practice.
Establish professional relationships… the opportunity to network with people who are experts in the field can be invaluable in helping you along your career path. There is always someone who has experienced the same issues you face in the workplace and ASET members are unfailingly generous in providing you with opinions, suggestions, policies and just overall support for you, besides it is very impressive when you are able to tell your boss that you can contact someone at a renowned institution to help you out (think “my friend at the Mayo Clinic” or “my colleague at Duke University” or “the director of the program at Cleveland Clinic”). Believe me, your administration will be impressed that you have these contacts.
Get the inside scoop on NDT education… the educational materials published by ASET are second-to-none in the field of neurodiagnostics. From the fabulous online courses, to the widely recognized journal, to the boot camps and, of course, the annual conference, there is something for everyone and as a volunteer, you can be part of the action. Do you have a particular specialty? Do you like to teach or write or research a topic? It is all available for ASET volunteers.
Make lifelong friends… volunteering for ASET is a way to make friends that will last a lifetime. When I think of all the people who I have met through my involvement with ASET, from across the country and beyond, I know that I have BFFs that I will never forget, even after I retire… I hope we never lose touch.
So, these are a few of the reasons why volunteering has been special to me. Volunteering doesn’t always take a lot of time and the time you spend will be repaid over and over again.
By Stephanie Jordan, R. EEG/EP T., CNIM, CLTM
What Drives Me to Volunteer those Extra Minutes of My Day?
Gratitude. Gratitude to the technologists that gave of themselves to help me with my EEG training from the very beginning of my career. Gratitude to the mentors; educators, coworkers, and physicians, who encouraged me to challenge myself to learn and apply new ideas. Gratitude for a career where I can show compassion and comfort to others. Gratitude for a career that has allowed personal growth. Gratitude for a career that has supported my family and those less fortunate. It is gratitude that allows me to find the time to volunteer and give back to the community that gave to me.
By Magdalena Warzecha, R. EEG/EP T., CLTM
As NDT professionals working in medical field, we are privileged to do meaningful and rewarding work every day. We provide medical care, perform neurodiagnostic tests, monitor surgeries and consequently, help in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. The goal of all our efforts is to improve lives and help alleviate human suffering. What motivates some of us to volunteer in addition to our work? I have found volunteer work not only very rewarding, but also perspective-enhancing.
In 2017 I had an opportunity to go on a medical mission trip organized by a neurologist from Alabama. With a group of physicians, dentists, nurses and other medical professionals we went to Haiti. From our base in Jacmel, we traveled to remote villages high in the mountains and offered medical attention to people who have never before been seen by a physician or treated with medications. We often worked in sanitary conditions far from acceptable by our U.S. infection control standards, setting up outdoor clinics on benches and furniture in peoples’ homes. We recorded several EEGs on children and adult patients who were thought by their community to be possessed because of their seizures. One of the patients, a 12 year-old-boy, was expelled from school because of seizures, his legs were covered in burn scars from falling into fire pit while seizing. No one helped him, thinking he is taken by spirits and could be contagious. His abnormal EEG was read by neurologist, he was given medications and his seizures are now less frequent. Medications for Haiti were donated by pharmaceutical companies and EEG equipment was donated to a small local clinic in Jacmel by a U.S. equipment vendor. We taught a local doctor how to measure and mark the head using the international 10-20 system, and how to apply electrodes and perform EEGs. We continue to work with this doctor remotely to review his EEGs and explain EEG patterns and correlations.
It may be cliché, but this trip truly was eye-opening for me and helped me gain valuable perspective in life. I learned that we need to be thankful for what we have. I noticed while in Haiti how happy and appreciative the people are despite living in very difficult conditions, without electricity or running water. They are able to find joy in the little things in life and see past socioeconomic status, while in the United States, we are often annoyed at minor inconveniences.
More importantly, it gave me an idea how great the need really is for medical help in developing countries. It will require the organized work of many passionate people to elevate medical care in developing countries, bring sustainable education and resources and it will take time, but it can and will be done.
I came to the realization that while we won’t be able to solve world’s problems in one trip, if we can make a positive difference in one person’s life, it is worth all the time and effort; we just need to focus on it.
Regardless of what motivates us to volunteer and how much we can do, it is always enriching, gratifying and, most importantly, needed. This new perspective was what I found to be most enlightening in my volunteering experience.
If you are interested in medical trips, or want to help NDT educational efforts in Africa, I will be happy to provide contact info for people and organizations you can work with.
INTRAOPERATIVE NEUROPHYSIOLOGICAL MONITORING
By Justin W. Silverstein, DHSc, CNIM
About 6 years ago I was introduced by a good friend and colleague to the world of medical volunteerism. Being a volunteer in any capacity is such a fulfilling experience. My first foray into volunteering was when a group of orthopedic spine surgeons I work with brought a girl from Ethiopia to the United States to perform a scoliosis correction on her. My company assisted with travel expenses for the young girl and I personally monitored the procedure. The case went phenomenally and the girl had a great outcome. Next, I got involved in a number of fund raisers to help generate awareness and increase financial contributions to charities that were providing medical missions in underserved countries. I had the opportunity to go on a medical mission to Costa Rica with Spine Hope. Medical missions are not just one and done situations, the idea is to go into an underserved area and help create infrastructure or train the staff that is currently there, whilst at the same time doing what you can to help the population. It is hard but extremely rewarding work. Below is a chronicle of the trip to Costa Rica:
The clinic was packed! Children traveled from all over the country to come see the team. Costa Rica has one of the best health care systems in Central America; however, only those living in San Jose (the Capital) or within proximity to a major city have access to care. Those in rural areas are not so fortunate. There is also a lack of medical specialization in the country. Part of the role of this trip was not only to perform surgery on the children, but for the team to train their respective counterparts so that one day, they would be self-sufficient without the need for outside help.
For this trip, there were 4 orthopedic spine surgeons, two neurophysiologists, 1 anesthesiologist, & 1 physician assistant. The other neurophysiologist and I split duties between 2 operating rooms. Above, I am with Dr. Mermelstein evaluating a 14-year-old girl for whether or not she would be a candidate for surgery.
One of the persons who worked for the charity and also acted as a translator for us, worked in neuromonitoring at one point in her career. She had created these neurophysiological screening forms that we used to make preoperative assessments and plans.
The hospital was about a 10-15-minute walk from our hotel. The walk was all downhill from hotel to hospital and the operating room was on the 5th floor. There was no elevator, so we had to carry our equipment and supplies each time. We did surgeries 4 out of 6 days and each surgical day averaged around 12 hours. Day 1 was clinic and Day 6 was conference.
Here I am with one of the local neuromonitoring clinicians. He came to my OR each day we had surgery. He was very interested in learning from us and documented how I did my set-ups, which muscles I targeted and what modalities I chose to monitor for the cases we did. My Spanish is not great, so we communicated via Google Translate the entire time. It worked really well and I learned a lot about the neuromonitoring climate in Costa Rica, which is privately owned but government funded.
Here we are with one of the 11 patients that we treated during our time in Costa Rica. This was 2 days post op.
The top picture is our team plus the OR team and different people that helped bring this trip to fruition (we had a big dinner the night before the last day of surgery). On the last day of the trip, we had a spine conference, where we were able to watch all the surgeons lecture on various topics. Dr. Mermelstein and I gave a lecture on neuromonitoring during spinal deformity surgery.
If you ever have an opportunity to provide services during a medical mission, I highly recommend doing it. It is a great way to give back to people less served as well as meet new colleagues and friends.
NERVE CONDUCTION STUDIES
By Dorothy J. Gaiter, MHA, R. EEG T., CNCT, R.NCS.T., FASET
“One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time” ~ #Volunteer
What does volunteerism or volunteer actually mean… hmmm? The dictionary defines volunteerism as: the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community. Whereas volunteer is defined as a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking. A person who performs a service willingly and without pay.
Volunteering is a noble thing … it is a selfless act to sacrifice one’s time to helping others to have a better life and a hopeful future. Volunteering has great rewards, the joy in knowing you have made a positive difference in someone’s life. The individuals receiving the assistance in whatever capacity it is given, know that they are not forgotten. The act of doing for others gives one the opportunity to focus on someone else rather than one’s self.
That being said, I have and continue to be a volunteer of ASET and it has given me a broader perspective of our professional organization. It afforded me the opportunity to learn and work with some great people over the years who are dedicated and committed to ASET’s mission: “To provide leadership, advocacy and resources that promote professional excellence, and patient safety and quality care in Neurodiagnostics.”
Additionally, it is important to volunteer in one’s community as well. Elizabeth Andrew said, “Volunteers do not neccesarily have the time, they have the heart.” I volunteer at my church’s Care Center for those who are on the streets and in transition, needing a place to shower, have their clothes laundered and serving them water, coffee and food, as well as providing prayer and counseling. Working at the Care Center is most rewarding when you see a person’s life transform and he or she is no longer on the street because of what was done to help them make that transformation. It is about love and compassion to help others to make that change.
One of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is working with teenage girls at church and having a small part in their development and growth, inspiring and encouraging them to just be themselves and knowing that I have made a positive influence on their lives!
“Everybody can be great. Because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr
By Anna-Marie Beck, MOL, R. EEG T.
A volunteer is a person who gives of their time freely to complete a task. While I do not have a great deal of free time (especially during the school year), I still find ways to freely give my time. I often can be found volunteering my time for students outside of school hours (including weekends and evenings). I have been known to donate my time to help those in my community prepare for their exams. I also freely provide resources for those less fortunate than myself. It is my responsibility to set an example for my children. In doing so, we volunteer at shelters and collect food for drives and give what we can. In the last couple years, I found a wonderful organization that my children are a part of called KindCraft in the Kansas City area, which is a non-profit designed for children. This organization finds service projects to get kids involved in volunteering and helping those less fortunate. There are many ways to give freely of our time, you should find something that makes you feel fulfilled.
By Mark Ryland, AuD, R. EP T., R.NCS.T., CNCT, RPSGT
About 20 years ago, I saw a segment on 60 Minutes where they followed a group of Physicians & Allied Health Career people involved in an organization called Remote Area Medical. They basically enter an impoverished community in the United States for one week, set up tents, and treat various medical conditions. For direct patient care, you need to be either a physician, nurse, or have training in Ophthalmology or Dental. Although I have no training in any of these allied medical professions, I have remained intrigued in this type of concept. I am certain, however, there are similar organizations where my background and training would be useful.
My career and family life have not allowed me to participate in anything like this, but my retirement is approaching fast, and I really want to investigate opportunities like this. I am sure I will get bored in retirement, so I am going to need something to keep me busy and out of trouble. I consider myself to be one of the most fortunate people in the known universe. I really want to give something back. Perhaps there is an organization I can find, or some of my ASET colleagues would be willing to recruit a dumb old Audiologist/Neuro Tech for something to do!
NEW TECHNOLOGIES & RESEARCH
By Andrew Ehrenberg, BS, R. EEG T., CNIM
Volunteering is a greatly rewarding enterprise, as is being wonderfully described in this quarter’s newsletter. I would echo the many stories here, of the intrinsic and emotional value it brings. Sharing the knowledge and skills we have acquired (many of us also share neurophysiology as a passion) is always rewarding, even more so when it truly helps others. When it comes to research, volunteering can also be a key first step.
Often times, technologists will be interested in research, but have no idea where to start. The three keys to getting into research are a good mentor, opportunity, and experience. Volunteering can open the door to all three of these. Here, I will discuss the main type of research to look for as a volunteer opportunity and why, as well as the types of people you should look for to ask about it.
Two main types of research are funded and unfunded. Funded research is paid for by grants, where there is funding to support the needed resources. Unfunded research is usually conducted by a physician with an interesting idea or as a pilot for future grant requests. Unfunded research, however, often suffers from a lack of resources. The primary researcher, and possibly some additional researchers, are conducting the study and writing the publication on their own time. There aren’t the funds (usually) to hire a lot of extra resources.
Believe it or not, if you ask around within your physician groups, there will either be a current unfunded study, or one of them might have had an idea in their mind for one, and they would be happy to have your involvement and skills. That truly is all there is to it. The primary researcher will likely be more than happy to mentor you and teach you the ropes of research, as they are getting highly skilled technical assistance in return.
No, you won’t likely be paid, hence the volunteering part, but this can open the door to future opportunities to participate in larger rolls, possibly even to co-author, or as part of funded studies. Simply asking the question to the right people can yield you the mentor you need to get there, the opportunity to get involved, and the experience. Do keep in mind, this involves work, lots of it. There is benefit that comes from the introduction to the research world, but it will definitely be earned.
Two things I would ask, however. First, if you decide to give this a shot, and end up being able to get involved in research, send me an email. I truly believe in, and love hearing about this type of professional growth. Secondly, once you have the experience, give back by finding techs who are interested in research and mentor them in how to get involved.
PEDIATRICS AND NEONATALOGY
By Melanie Sewkarran, R. EEG T., CLTM
I haven’t found many volunteer opportunities that leverage my skills as an EEG technologist, but I’ll be ready when the situation arises. Most of my volunteer opportunities come through my church. Whether it’s mission trips, a work day at our building, helping elderly members with yard work, or providing childcare for certain events, it is always a very rewarding experience. As my young kids grow, I am eager to get involved in activities that allow us to serve as a family. I want to impress upon them the importance of giving without expecting anything in return, and then show them that there really is plenty of “return,” it just isn’t money.
I also serve on the Board of a foster care/adoption/counseling agency in town and while I’m not the most financially or business-minded individual, I enjoy getting to help where I can. Finding something you believe in and using what resources you have to support its vision is very fulfilling.
What I love about volunteering is that it takes many forms, anyone can do it, and while the results for the helped and the helper may be different, both lives are enriched by the experience.
By Janna Cheek, R. EEG T., CNIM
It’s so odd that volunteering and “giving back” is the theme for this newsletter since my daughter-in-law who is an RN, specializing in cataract, cornea and retina surgical procedures just returned from a mission trip in Honduras. We have communicated non-stop on how many lives this mission changed. Not only the poor and needy individuals receiving their eye sight but my daughter-in-law, several of her fellow nursing friends and the surgeon who organized this mission trip for them. All of their hearts are so full of LOVE and sincere delight from being able to help and they cannot wait to go back.
Now, after listening to her talk about her passion from the mission work, it way surpasses the nominal donation checks that I write out to help the police and their families, the firefighters and veterans. Each of these local organizations give everything to protect our communities with their lives because they want to. My son is a police officer and I see what it involves. Not only the concerns of mom, but with his wife and two little girls that never let him leave without a hug, a kiss and an “I LOVE YOU” because in this day and age, we never know if we will see him again.
But on a happier and job-related note, the NeuroLinks family (staff) pitched in with each buying items like cheese crackers, small tooth paste, tooth brush, comb, small deodorant, wet wipes and pieces of hard candy. We wrote a loving note with a scripture verse to place into a zip-lock baggie. Staff took 6 – 8 filled baggies and, as they travel to and from work or stop at a red light, we give one to a homeless person or someone in need. This type of “giving” is so easy and inexpensive. This is a great way to start or end each day and words cannot express the feeling you get by helping someone in need.