Life in the OR: Surgical Neurophysiologist Edition, Vol.1

Our IONM training program welcomes up to 25 new students across four training cohorts each year. In order to be considered, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and display a commitment to core values like clinical excellence, integrity, and customer service. The year-long program includes classroom learning, supervised clinical training, and clinical oversight until competencies are demonstrated. We sat down with Kevin Munoz, one of our neurophysiologists, to discuss his experience, his success in the SpecialtyCare SNI Training Program, and where is now in his career as a neurophysiologist.

What is Your Current Position and What Team are You on Within SpecialtyCare?

I just recently found out that my application for Surgical Neurophysiologist III was accepted so, within the next few weeks, I will be an SN3! I am on the Northern New Jersey Team, led by our clinical manager, Justyna McGuire. We cover several different hospitals in Central/Northern New Jersey.

What Does a Typical Workday Look Like for You?

Just like most of us in the field of IONM, our days vary from day to day and can be unpredictable. For our team, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are our busiest days. Tuesdays and Thursdays are lighter, however, we do help cover cases for other local teams on those days if they are busy or request help. A typical day starts off pretty early, around 4:45-5:00 a.m., in order to be at the hospital an hour early so that I am ready to go for a 7:00-7:30 a.m. start time. I usually bring snacks or lunch because the schedule can always change and add-ons occur pretty frequently. I don’t set a time to get home because you never really know how the day will play out. Thankfully, our team is very supportive, and we always check in with each other in case anyone needs help or breaks. Sometimes, we will have two, three, or even four cases on these days as the surgeons we work with are quite busy. Our team has built extremely strong relationships with the surgeons and staff, and we feel that we are truly part of the team, providing exceptional care to our patients every day.

What Do You Enjoy Most About Your Job? 

I really enjoy being able to meet the patients we serve. I think that it is very important to greet the patient, explain what our job is, and get an understanding of what the patient’s symptoms and chief complaints are. This allows us to do a better job overall as neurophysiologists. I also enjoy putting a name to a face and connecting with the patient. Sometimes, they can be very nervous, and just greeting them with a warm smile can cheer them up. 

What Made You Decide to Join the SpecialtyCare IONM Training Program? 

I was told about SpecialtyCare’s IONM training program through a friend who is also in the field of IONM. He told me that SpecialtyCare had established a very successful program that would allow you to obtain your CNIM, which is necessary for IONM. At the time, I was working at a research laboratory at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while attending the University of Pennsylvania for a master’s degree program. I knew that I did not want to be in research for a long time, as I wanted to work directly with people and provide patient care. I did some research for a few days, and I decided to apply. Shortly thereafter, I received an email for a phone screening, and the rest is history! 

What was the Most Rewarding Part of the IONM Training?

The most rewarding part of training in IONM was when I had my first alert when I was solo. I was always worried that when I had my first alone alert, I would get nervous or forget what to do. However, when I did have my first serious alert, I recalled all of my training and was able to confidently communicate the alert to the surgeon and make a suggestion that ultimately helped the patient’s outcome. It felt extremely rewarding as a young neurophysiologist to directly make an impact on someone’s life. The training I went through was instrumental and it helped reassure myself that I was trained properly for moments like these.

Why Would You Encourage Someone to Enter this Field and Consider the SpecialtyCare IONM Training Program?

I would encourage someone to enter this field if they want to help make a difference in the lives of many people. It is not an easy field to get into, however, I could not imagine myself working from 9 5p.m. at a desk or an office all day. It is a field filled with unpredictability; however, it is extremely rewarding and there is enormous room for growth. Working alongside nurses, surgeons, anesthesiologists, and more is very interesting.  You will learn many new skills and knowledge along the way, and you will make friends with the professionals you work with on a weekly basis as a team. 

The SC IONM training program is led by amazing people, like Julie Trott and Kristina Young, whom I admire a lot. They will primarily reinforce those early skills that are necessary to be successful in our field. I felt that my initial training in Nashville was crucial to my career as a neurophysiologist. Having a strong foundation is very important in this field. I also felt very well prepared for my CNIM exam. The training program does a wonderful job with CNIM prep. I have heard stories about clinicians not being able to pass the CNIM many times over, however, that is not the case within the SpecialtyCare SNI training program. Julie, Kristina, and the rest of the instructors provide all of the materials needed, as well as prep courses and practice exams that were very helpful. Julie also goes above and beyond for the training cohorts and will provide one-on-one attention or instruction as needed. 

Any Example Stories or Events You’d Like to Share?

As an immigrant Latino/Hispanic and someone fluent in Spanish, I sometimes come across patients that do not speak English very well and are more comfortable communicating in Spanish. Many times, these patients are extremely nervous and have a hard time communicating to the medical staff and really do not understand what they will be going through in terms of spine surgery. Several times, I have had the pleasure of being able to use my bilingual abilities to speak to Spanish-speaking patients and inform them as to what is going on. It is very rewarding knowing that the patients feel better about going into surgery and that I was able to connect with them on a personal level. Growing up, I remember dealing with this language barrier. I would accompany my mother to her doctor’s appointments to aid her in communicating to the staff, so I understand how these patients feel and have to sometimes go through.

Learn More About SpecialtyCare’s IONM Training Program

Our surgical neurophysiologists are well educated, highly trained, and have extensive experience in the field. SpecialtyCare is dedicated to hiring talented and motivated people who are eager to learn and start a career in this exciting and rewarding field. As a SpecialtyCare surgical neurophysiologist, you will be in a great position to grow your career while working with highly skilled physicians and surgical teams in a variety of clinical settings and locations.

To get you to that point, we offer full-time, salaried employment coupled with a structured and progressive one-year training program that features a combination of classroom work, laboratory practicums, online instruction and practical training in the operating room designed to prepare you for a career in IONM. Upon completion of the training program, associates are board certified and promoted to the second tier of our IONM clinical career ladder.

Learn more by visiting our IONM Careers page for current opportunities.

Click here to view our IONM Training Program.