All Tangled Up: The Life of a Neurodiagnostic Technologist During COVID-19

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Ali Bailey

In 2017, I began looking for a career in healthcare that would better people’s lives here in Birmingham, Alabama, and under-developed parts of the world. I joined a training program to become a Neurodiagnostic technologist at Children’s of Alabama. I completed the program in 2017, became a registered tech in 2018, passed the CLTM exam in 2019, and stepped into my current role as a Neurophysiology ICU Specialist II in 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit.

At my work, all Neurodiagnostic technologists were sent home and placed on a rotating call for emergency EEGs. Our outpatient studies were canceled, yet we seemed to be working longer, harder hours than pre-pandemic. There were issues, including lack of and improper use of personal protective equipment (PPE), that evolved from not wearing a mask, using our own personal supply, only wearing a surgical mask, finally, thankfully having sufficient PPE for every patient. It was during these developing stages that I found ASET’s journal article, “Technical Tips: Keeping it Clean during COVID-19” by Anna Bonner and Petra Davidson, in The Neurodiagnostic Journal: Volume 60, issue 3. It was an asset to my job.

Initially, we were exposed to COVID-19 when treating our typical ICU pediatric patients who were asymptomatic. My coworkers and I continued to treat the regular admissions — motor vehicle accidents, newborns with brain bleeds, non-accidental traumas, and patients with cardiac arrest.

Oftentimes, we would receive an email the following day that we have been exposed again to COVID-19 in these very unsuspecting situations. The ICU quickly became a hot mess, and so did I. The masks left indentions on my nose and calluses behind my ears. It did not take long to stop wearing makeup except mascara after learning the hard way that foundation and lip gloss are not removed from an N-95 mask during the sterilization process.

Ali Bailey wearing PPE

As we continued to treat patients who tested positive for COVID-19, we began to notice a shift in our patients’ neurological symptoms in late December 2020. Even patients without pre-existing conditions were diagnosed quickly with the virus and experienced neurological changes. There was a drastic increase in Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), altered mental status, strokes, brain cysts, and new-onset febrile seizure after seizure. This all happened in the second wave, which was by far the worst. This wave crashed almost as quickly as it came, and COVID-positive numbers have significantly declined over the past month. We are currently experiencing fewer ICU patients with the disease. 

COVID-19 has forever changed the way we provide healthcare. I was recently asked if I have considered changing jobs due to the disease. I can honestly say, “No.” I absolutely love what I do, those that we treat, and the amazing team of Neurodiagnostic technologist’s I rub elbows with every day. I have grown in respect and depend on my coworkers more than ever. We are cognizant of our need for each other’s support as very few people have had such an up-close look at the way COVID-19 affects the pediatric population. I am prouder than ever to be a Neurodiagnostic technologist, no matter how tangled up all those wires and life get!

The view and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Children’s of Alabama.

Author: Ali Bailey BS, R. EEG T., CLTM, Neurophysiologist ICU Specialist lI, Children’s of Alabama

This guest blog is written as part of ASET’s Neurodiagnostic Week story series that highlights the experience of Neurodiagnostic technologists during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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