Potential STEM Career: Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring

For those who love the clinical applications of neuroscience but aren’t interested in academic careers, Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring (IONM)  may be of interest.IONM uses electrophysiological techniques—such as electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG)—to monitor the integrity of the central nervous system during surgery. This aids surgeons from damaging important nerves during surgery. This type of monitoring is also used in a multitude of other operative settings as well. This new and emerging field is vital in maintaining patient safety and decreasing the risk of permanent damage to the nervous system.  

Specialized training helps you interpret triggered and spontaneous electrophysiological signals from the patient’s nervous system throughout the operation in real-time. IONM professionals are becoming vital parts of the team, functioning as a second pair of eyes for the surgeon and anesthesiologist and providing immediate feedback and warnings before permanent injury occurs.

IONM are employed by large university hospitals, larger non-teaching hospitals, and smaller community hospitals regionally. Companies specializing in the intraoperative monitoring also employ IONM professionals on a national level. As a burgeoning profession, demand for IONM professionals is very high, and current average salaries are between $60,000 – $70,000/year.

How do you get into this field?

There are two different private organizations offering certifications you can pursue: the ABRET (American Board of Registration of Electroencephalographic and Evoked Potential Technologists) offers CNIM (Certification in Neurophysiological Intraoperative Monitoring) and the (ANM) American Board of Neurophysiological Monitoring also offers certification in IONM). In the US, the CNIM is the most widely recognized certification, although the ANM is solely focused on IONM.

Both organizations offer multiple pathways for obtaining certification, with options for those possessing Bachelor’s degrees or current medical professionals. To be eligible to take the national exam for certification in Neurophysiologic Intraoperative Monitoring (CNIM), an individual must have a minimum of 150 cases solo experience.

There are two paths you can take:

Path 1: a 200 question exam costing $600.

Path 2: a 250-question exam. A 4-hour multiple-choice computer-based exam is offered twice a year.

Typical Route :

Obtain a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Neuroscience, or something similar. Some schools offer IONM training programs.

Find a job as an Intraoperative Neuromonitoring trainee

After handling a minimum of 150 cases solo, apply for the CNIM exam

Interested in learning more?Listen to this episode of our podcast where we interview a neurophysiologist.

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