I love what I do for a living, but I can’t stand talking about it in mixed company. Neuromonitoring is a profession that very few people have ever heard of. It isn’t like other professions, the names of which spark an immediate understanding of responsibility and purpose. People just get what bankers and dentists do… Neuromonitoring on the other hand sparks blank stares, question marks, long bouts of blinking and the occasional inquiry, “Neuro-what?”
“Neuromonitoring. I evaluate the nervous system in order to preserve function during high risk surgical procedures of the brain and spine.”
Well… now we’ve moved from blank stares to wide eyes and open lips… “That’s so interesting! Do you work in surgery? Do you see patients? You shock them?!? Oh my God! Can you tell what’s wrong with my brain? Are you a surgeon? Do you know my surgeon? Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? What do you think of Dr. Oz? My cousin has autism? My mom has a brain tumor? Is it true that we only use 10% of our brains? What do you think of gluten? How can I lose weight? Should I vaccinate my child? What color is the brain? What does it feeeeel like? Can you tell I’m histrionic?”
My goodness… can’t we talk about sports, travel and leisure. I just want to relax!
The problem isn’t the complexity of the field, per se, it is the fact that I don’t much like to monopolize conversation. I think other people are fascinating! So, given the opportunity, I’d much rather talk about them. This is a true story… When people ask me what I do for a living, I actually started telling them that I paint the black lines on basketballs. Everyone immediately understands the purpose of that profession, and, sadly, most people actually believe me. People just get it. The conversation ends, and we move on to something else.
I’ve stopped doing that now, primarily because I learned something really important: people need to know about neuromonitoring.
So many people out there in the world could benefit from neuromonitoring, and from knowledge about neuromonitoring, and yet they have few resources from which to learn. If you are going to have surgery, how are you supposed to know about the benefits of neuromonitoring unless your surgeon tells you? And, how often does that happen? Sure, there are lots of companies out there with information on their websites, but they all have something to sell. As a consumer, how do you know who to trust?
I started talking about what I do for a living because I wanted people to be informed. I’ve seen people with paralyzed vocal cords from thyroid surgery because their surgeon didn’t use neuromonitoring. I’ve met people who have had cervical spine surgery and brainstem surgery without any neuromonitoring at all! I thought to myself, “Patients are taking more control of their healthcare now… What if they knew? What if they demanded neuromonitoring? Would it improve outcomes? Would the rogue cowboy surgeons finally be forced to listen?” I met so many people who, after hearing about what I do for a living, said, “I wish I had met you before my ______ surgery. Maybe I wouldn’t have this problem.” Maybe. No way to tell, but YES, you would have gone into the procedure with more knowledge and perhaps more control over the outcome!
After cycling between avoiding the conversation and actually talking to people and listening to their stories, I needed a way to reach the general public, to tell them about neuromonitoring and how it can help to reduce the risk of neurologic injury during surgery. I decided that the world needed another crappy website. So, I started this blog.
Why stop there? Think about all of the people who work in and around surgery. Most of them have no idea what neuromonitoring is, even the ones who think they do! Surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and hospital administrators all need to understand neuromonitoring, and yet few have more than the most basic and frequently incorrect understanding of what neuromonitoring is (and what it isn’t). I met physicians who didn’t believe in neuromonitoring…I met surgeons who under-used neuromonitoring…I met nurses and hospital administrators that viewed neurophysiologists as pesky vendors, like we’re in the hospital to sell something…
I knew this problem wasn’t omnipresent, though. I had the privilege of working with surgeons, some of the best in the world, who deeply respect and rely very heavily upon neuromonitoring. I have worked with lots of people in various positions who understand and appreciate neuromonitoring.
My colleague, Dr. Adam Doan, and I once gave a presentation on IONM to a group of nurses. They asked us to talk for 3 hours….on a Saturday! That was a loooooong talk but, after it was over, the nurses kept us for an additional 2 hours asking question…on their day off! They were interested, fascinated by IONM. So, I needed a way to reach people on the front lines of patient care and tell them about neuromonitoring and its benefits. Yes, the world needed another website!
Having identified the entire world as my target audience and the web as my medium, I needed a mission, a plan, a concept. What kinds of information would be included in the website? Should I get a fancy logo…a snappy catchphrase? What would I write about? How in depth should I go? What if I offended people? What if people argued? What if no one read…? What if everyone read? I can’t believe I’m starting a blog! Maybe I shouldn’t do this… Clearly the world doesn’t need another blog! Ha. That’s what goes through your head when you start a blog.
Beyond the desire to tell people all about neuromonitoring, I started a website/blog because I wanted to communicate and exchange ideas with people who share my passion for neuromonitoring. I wanted to create an online community… outside of facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Sure, it’s great to belong to a professional society, like ASNM or ACNS, but blogs by definition are a little more informal, personal, intimate. People who work in neuromonitoring know what it is like to work in such a demanding field. We work long hours, we give up holidays, we get called in the middle of the night, we drive long distances, we go for 8, 10, 12, 16 hours without food or backroom breaks, we get treated like garbage by hospital administrators, we make a real, meaningful impact on patients lives, and we get zero recognition…ever. When you work in such a demanding field, you make sacrifices to your family, your friends and your health. This website isn’t an outlet for bitching and complaining, but that may happen from time-to-time. Isn’t is nice to know that other people understand and appreciate your sacrifices, that they empathize…??
So, I’m here, you’re here. I hope you like what you see so far. This blog, this website, is for anyone who is curious about neuromonitoring (aka: IONM). If you want to learn about neuromonitoring, or better understand monitoring personnel, types of certifications and the vast range of clinician qualifications, check out the IONM menu above.
If you want to read about special topics in neuromonitoring, if you want to share your opinion, if you want to start arguments with strangers, or if you’re here because you finally reached the end of the internet, then check out my blog.
I plan to update posts approximately on a monthly basis.
I hope to blog about interesting cases, discuss new books & research articles, talk about my personal experiences, debunk myths, spark conversations, and otherwise cry and complain. Feel free to leave your comments, ask questions and make recommendations for anything from future posts to website upgrades. Just remember to keep it clean and professional.
Are you interested in writing? Want to have your opinion heard, your experience shared, your work featured? If you have a concept for column or an individual post, don’t just sit there…send me a message! Do you want to advertise an upcoming presentation, webinar, talk, poster, meeting, etc? Send me a message and I will include it on the website.
This is a community, a forum, dedicated entirely to the tiny niche world of intraoperative neurophysiological monitoring and mapping. You are most welcome to join, subscribe, contribute and keep coming back.
At this time (June, 2014), I’m still tweaking some features on the website. If you find any problems, dead links, etc. Feel free to let me know.
Thanks for reading!