Patients and their families have to come first, she tells her students. That is the job.
NDTs have to face hard cases — patients and loved ones dealing with life-altering neurological conditions like epilepsy and brain tumors. Their well-being depends in no small part on the professionalism of their providers, says Beck, who is director of the neurodiagnostic technology program at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.
Stoicism in the face of emotionally challenging cases is hard, Beck tells her students. But it can be so rewarding when you see how much it can help the patient and their families.
To illustrate this, Beck often shares the story about a little boy she helped treat for more than three years.
“He was really sick, really sick,” she says of her first EEG in the NICU with the patient. “And you know, I was four months pregnant when I first met [his family]. I was a hot mess.”
Years after that initial EEG, she ran into one of the family’s relatives, the little boy’s uncle, whom she had never met.
“‘You’re her! You’re the EEG tech that took care of him for so long,’” she remembers him saying to her.
The boy had passed away the previous year, but his family did not forget his EEG tech. His uncle said the family had talked about her with family and friends. All they knew was that she took great care of their little boy.
Putting your own emotions on the back burner can be hard and it takes a certain amount of compartmentalization. With stories like this one, Beck talks to her students about burnout and the importance of self-care.
“It brings me great gratitude for my profession,” she says. “It makes me proud of myself that I was able to be a constant in the lives of chaos for that family.”
Beck has also given her students a first look at her ability to show professionalism in the lab. Beck did her own daughter’s EEG in a room full of students on the day she was diagnosed with epilepsy.
“They could see my face and they could see that there was some stress there,” Beck says. “But they also heard me saying, ‘Honey, it’s OK. You’re doing great.’”
The job is hard, mentally, emotionally, and physically, says Beck. Despite this, her students need to keep the patient’s needs at the forefront.
Special thanks to Anna-Marie Beck, DBA, R. EEG T., Program Director of Neurodiagnostic Technology at Johnson County Community College, for sharing her stories with us.