Kevin Helm’s first year and a half with ASET was interesting — to say the least.
Helm was announced as the new executive director of ASET – The Neurodiagnostic Society in April 2020 and was immediately thrust into the role of leading it through unprecedented challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The organization I just spent five years with prior to this was 100 percent virtual, so I built a good skill set,” Helm told Neurology Insights at the ASET 62nd Annual Conference in San Diego. “The biggest challenge was with culture. We already had a split staff to begin with. We had 10 employees when I started, five of them were remote, five were in the office. So, how do you build culture when you’ve got half your staff who can’t see you in person?”
His answer: There needs to be “intentionality.”
“How do you purposely try to connect people? I think it was quickly realized that you can’t do things status quo and you can’t assume because you’ve got a quiet person that everything’s OK,” he added. “You have to start building intentional relationships, intentional meetings, and those manifested in different ways.”
Helm quickly realized neurodiagnostic technologists seemed to handle the difficulties of the pandemic well.
“I have some friends who are nurses and I also have a friend who’s a healthcare executive for a hospital in Kansas City,” he said. “Their foundation was shaken either by training, by atmosphere, whatever it is.”
But for several reasons, Helm says his field “weathered the storm really well.”
“There’s a general attitude of perseverance within this field — a kind of, ‘We’re going to do what it takes.’ And it’s amazing,” he said.
In April 2021, ASET released the results of a survey, conducted four months prior, of 266 neurodiagnostic technologists on their experiences during COVID-19. More than 80 percent had performed neurodiagnostic testing on at least one patient who was positive or under investigation for COVID-19.
Their roles adjusted to include educating patients and their family members about procedures and policies as well as spending more time consoling patients dealing with anxiety caused by the virus.
More than 60 percent of respondents needed to reuse personal protective equipment (PPE) that should otherwise be only single-use and dealt with improper use of PPE by patients and/or their family members in their facility. More than half answered that their workplace lacked adequate PPE for themselves and their coworkers.
The pandemic brought undeniable challenges, but at the ASET conference Helm cited how frequently attendees referred to those in the profession as family. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a field in which technologists dealt with isolation. They already knew the importance of reaching out and checking in with peers.
“There were some initial scary things about layoffs and, ‘What will my job look like? Can I still treat patients? How do I do that?’” Helm said. “But from what I saw, that went away very quickly. I don’t want to say it was business as usual, because that’s really not fair, but they made everything work. It was great.”