The University of Connecticut (UConn) Intraoperative Neuromonitoring (IONM) Certificate Program is expanding into a Professional Master’s in Surgical Neurophysiology. Designed by faculty from UConn’s Department of Physiology and Neurobiology in collaboration with NuVasive Clinical Services (NCS), the program will provide the skills and knowledge required for students to be hired into a full-time position as a neuromonitoring clinician and actively participate in surgical cases that utilize neuromonitoring.
We interviewed Payam Andalib, MD, PhD, CNIM (NCS Academic Liaison and Clinical Director of the IONM program at the University of Connecticut), for his insight. Andalib played a critical role in the development of the program since its inception and also serves as one of the faculty.
What sparked the idea for developing the certificate program, and now the Professional Master’s in Surgical Neurophysiology?
The idea for creating an academic program in IONM originated from two observations regarding the IONM field:
- The lack of a standardized academic path similar to other healthcare related fields such as medicine, nursing, and physical therapy.
- The growing demand for highly skilled clinicians in the field of IONM.
The IONM Graduate Certificate Program in the Department of Physiology and Neurobiology at UConn began in 2015 and was designed to meet these goals and provide candidates a path for education and employment. The creation of this certificate program is a great example of successful collaboration between a large academic institution and a large IONM service provider.
The certificate program provides six weeks of comprehensive didactic and lab training (programming IONM machines), which prepares students for employment by an IONM company or an in-house program. They will gain clinical training in the first few months of employment and then be able to monitor surgical procedures as solo clinicians.
Four years after the successful implementation of the IONM Certificate Program, UConn has approved the expansion of the program to create the first-ever Professional Master’s in Surgical Neurophysiology. The collaboration with NCS is crucial to the development of the new program. The new master’s program will include advanced didactic IONM courses, lab training, and additional neurophysiology courses. More importantly, it will include clinical training in the hospital setting for three consecutive semesters allowing the students to be eligible to take their Certification for Neurophysiological Monitoring (CNIM) exam prior to entering the field of IONM. Moreover, the students will be fully clinically trained and will enter the field of IONM as solo clinicians.
The total duration of the professional master’s program is one year from start to finish, allowing the students to receive the necessary training in an academic environment which will be instrumental in paving the way for a successful career in IONM.
For those interested in pursuing the master’s degree program, what skillsets do you look for in a potential candidate?
Successful candidates require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or higher in biology or other closely related fields and need to meet the UConn Graduate School admission requirements. However, we may consider candidates from other disciplines after the review of their application and conducting phone or in-person interviews.
How will the students benefit from working and being exposed to the NVM5® platform through their education?
The students in the professional master’s program at UConn will be exposed to different IONM platforms, including the NVM5 platform. Students will not only become familiar and practice with IONM machines in the lab setting, but also will observe and work with them during their clinical hospital training. This will allow them to be highly competent in working with different IONM platforms including NVM5 at the end of their training.
In a few years, do you predict that other universities will develop an IONM focused curriculum?
Yes, there has been an increase in the number of academic programs in IONM over the past few years. With the increased demand for highly-skilled clinicians in the field, it is easy to assume there will be more academic programs in the IONM field in the near future. This in turn would allow for better standardization and education in the field of IONM and provide the IONM providers and in-house programs a steady stream of talented and experienced candidates throughout the year and throughout the country.