Intraoperative Neuromonitoring (IONM) is a rapidly-growing field that involves the monitoring of the central and peripheral nervous systems of patients undergoing surgical procedures such as orthopedic spinal correction (scoliosis treatment), cranial neurosurgery, and interventional radiologic procedures.
IONM helps improve patient outcome by carefully assessing the functional status of nervous tissue, including spinal column tracts, eloquent brain regions, and peripheral nerve. This neurophysiologic information helps the surgeon perform a safer and sometimes more thorough procedure.
The U-M School of Kinesiology has developed a specialized educational program for Movement Science majors – one of the first of its kind in North America. IONM Program students will take four courses (12 credits) in neuroanatomy and neurophysiology, plus a sequence of clinical rotations. Upon graduation, they will take the Certification in Neurophysiologic Intraoperative Monitoring (CNIM) Exam to become licensed neuromonitorists.
Neuromonitorists are employed by large university hospitals and larger non-teaching hospitals. Neuromonitoring is also provided to smaller community hospitals regionally or nationally by companies that specialize in this field. The demand for qualified neuromonitorists is very high, and current average salaries are between $60,000 and $70,000/year.
In addition to their clinical work in the operating room, neuromonitorists can use their degree as a stepping stone into medical school, research, or a career in health care management.
I’ve always been passionate about teaching. Shortly after beginning my graduate work in biomedical engineering, I learned about the field of Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring. I began to shadow and train under a team of neuromonitorists at a teaching hospital and focused my graduate studies on neurophysiology, with an emphasis on the differences between peripheral sensory and motor nerve fiber electrical excitability.
After obtaining certification in the field (passing the CNIM exam) and continuing to work as a neuromonitorist where I received my training, I had the opportunity to spend some time educating neurologists, neurosurgeons, and other health care professionals overseas in the field of neuromonitoring. I then took a similar position at the University of Michigan Health Care System (UMHS) and completed my graduate degree in Biomedical Engineering.
I’ve spent the past few years developing and teaching undergraduate IONM-specific Movement Science classes within the School of Kinesiology as we’ve partnered with the Department of Neurology to create a formalized Bachelor’s-level education program for the field of IONM. It’s required a lot of hard work, but it’s something our field has needed for a long time and I’m grateful to be a part of meeting that need.
Like many college graduates, when I completed my bachelor’s degree in 2009, I wasn’t entirely sure what direction my career would take. I have always been drawn to the medical field, as I enjoy learning about how the body operates, especially in response to injury and illness, and value proper patient care.
Upon my graduation from the University of Michigan with a degree in Brain, Behavior, and Cognitive Science, I learned of Intraoperative Neurophysiological Monitoring from a friend who worked for a company that provides these services to local hospitals. I wasn’t even aware that such practices were used during surgery, and I immediately became intrigued. I was hired by the same company, and worked as a neuromonitorist first in Florida, and upon returning to Michigan, in the Ann Arbor and Detroit region.
After three years of experience in the field, I happily accepted a position as a neuromonitorist at the University of Michigan Health Care System (UMHS). I viewed the Bachelor’s degree program offered through the School of Kinesiology as a necessary progression for the field. With IONM practices becoming more standardized, the need for properly educated neuromonitorists is increasing. I was eager to get involved, and over the past year I’ve helped mentor and train our students in the clinical setting. It has been a wonderful learning experience, and I am excited to see the impact our efforts will make on the future of the field.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Alma College, I found that my life seemed to be missing what I always had a true passion for: medicine. I then decided to go back to school and take pre-requisite classes for an accelerated nursing program. It was during this time that I first learned about Intraoperative Neuromonitoring (IONM). I was fascinated by the ability to have sensory and motor information during surgery that could potentially prevent significant deficits in patient outcomes. I then decided I would pursue a career as a neuromonitorist.
In 2011, I found my niche when I started working for a neuromonitoring company where I received on-the-job training and obtained my CNIM certification. Additionally, I discovered I also enjoyed mentoring new trainees.
I have been with the University of Michigan’s neuromonitoring program since August 2012 and have assisted Professor Mergos with the technical and clinical education and training the students receive in the operating rooms. I am marveled at the progress our field has made and enjoy being able to aid in its further growth.