No healthcare industry is exempt from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and each is affected in its own unique ways. A lot of what is happening to neurodiagnostic technologists is hard, but some changes will ultimately be for the good.
That’s how Connie Kubiak, president of ASET-The Neurodiagnostic Society and a traveling EEG tech, sees the situation – and she was recently laid off just a few weeks into a new contract because of the pandemic.
We spoke to Kubiak by phone at her home in Northern Michigan where she is sheltering in place with her husband. The following are edited excerpts from our conversation with her.
NI: What are the biggest issues facing neurodiagnostic technologists right now?
Kubiak: They are being furloughed or laid off unless they are in a state or county that’s not majorly affected. Some of them are cutting hours: instead of working 40, maybe they are working 20. Some are just working on call. They have families and they have bills, and they are worried.
If they are working, they are worried because they feel like they’re being exposed sometimes unnecessarily. They don’t have the information they need to keep themselves safe. There is a lot of confusion about PPE for an EEG tech.
NI: What ASET initiatives are most affected by the pandemic?
Kubiak: Probably our biggest thing is our in-person educational offerings. We had a program that was supposed to be in Jacksonville, Florida, that was cancelled. We have had some ASET chapters who have had to cancel some local educational opportunities. And we’ll be making a decision soon about the annual meeting.
But the opportunities are we have given more free continuing education online for our members. ASET is still open. We’re still providing what we can for our members.
NI: What are the silver linings in all this?
Kubiak: I think the infection-control piece from a hospital standpoint is going to be different. Up until this time there were a lot of labs that still used reusable electrodes. They used tubs of paste, adhesive, or glue. Even though we had gloves and universal precautions, I think this has brought back light on why we need to do the things that we do?
We are talking about doing an addendum to the [infection-control guidelines for neurodiagnostic technologists]. That paper was already in publication when COVID came out and we knew we had to give our members something. That’s how the COVID-19 resource page started.
We are also working in conjunction with the American Epilepsy Society, the Child Neurology Society, the Epilepsy Foundation, the American Academy of Neurology. There is a whole group we are meeting with, and we are compiling information. So, instead of having eight different societies who are creating their own documents, they are sharing information, which is totally unheard of from a society standpoint.
NI: What do you say to the NDTs who are struggling right now?
Kubiak: If they have a concern about a certain thing that they are asked to do [at work], they need to be able to advocate for themselves and not put themselves at risk.
Everyone is in the same boat. If they haven’t been majorly affected, they probably will be somewhere down the line, and if they have been, things are going to get better. It may be slow, but things are going to get better.
This is the perfect time to work on those things that they never had time to do, whether that is personally or professionally. I also tell people to turn the news off.