Q&A with Julie Trott and Kristina Young, Directors of our IONM SNI Training Program

We sat down with Kristina Young and Julie Trott to share answers to some of the most common questions we receive during our SNI program application process. We hope this serves not only as a helpful resource to those applying for our program but additionally provides background about our program leaders and what you can personally expect from our training process!


Who she is:

Kristina Young, a graduate of Florida State University, serves as Director of Clinical Development for SpecialtyCare’s IONM service line. Following board certification in 2009, Kristina worked as a surgical neurophysiologist, progressing to clinical manager, and then advancing to the Education and Training Department in 2015. Kristina oversees the clinical training and assessment components of the SpecialtyCare IONM training program and coordinates the national board certification preparation series.

Question: Will I get to go into the OR during all phases of my training?

Upon joining SpecialtyCare, new SNI trainees spend the first two weeks solely engaging in didactic material and the simulation OR environment. Week three of training is when we begin to slowly introduce the OR environment under direct supervision of a clinical instructor.  The ongoing training process includes didactic curriculum delivery alongside clinical shadowing and practice, prior to an extensive clinical competency assessment process. 

Question: How will I get feedback on my clinical training?

Each of our SNIs is paired with a clinical instructor. During the first phase of the training program, the clinical instructor provides daily feedback, both verbally as well as through submission of assessments so the educational leadership team can track progress carefully.  Analytics software is used to track progress and analyze individual performance measures, providing students and instructors with periodic updates of clinical progress along the path to clinical competency.

Question: At what point am I able to monitor a case independently in the OR?

Students within a cohort progress to clinical competency at different rates.  After just the first few months of training, most students begin to master the skills necessary to monitor a case independently, but all students must undergo an extensive clinical competency assessment process overseen by the local clinical instructor and education team leaders.  This can require anywhere from three to six months even for the most basic type of monitoring.   

Question: At what point in my training will I start to prepare for the CNIM board exam, and what does that preparation look like?

Students in a cohort typically begin Phase III (CNIM Prep) about 9 months after starting employment as an SNI.  The SpecialtyCare CNIM Prep is a 10 week program. We start with modules and quizzes to review Anatomy, Physiology, Neurophysiology, and all of the necessary fundamentals. After module completion, students are required to attend three live interactive webinars, hosted via Zoom. Lastly, we have the reinforcement stage, when students use a mobile phone application that presents daily practice questions and review materials as well as topic-specific progress tracking. Prior to scheduling your test, students take practice exams and meet for a 1:1 with an education team member to complete a readiness assessment. Once cleared to test, you will schedule your exam!


Who she is:

Julie Trott is a neurophysiologist with over 13 years of clinical experience and 8 years in educational leadership.  She became CNIM certified in 2008 before earning a Master’s in Biology with a graduate certificate in emerging diseases from the University of St. Joseph in Connecticut.  Julie moved to Nashville in 2015 to pursue directorship of the SNI training program and earned a graduate certificate in Adult Education from Western Kentucky University in 2018.  In her role as Director of the IONM Training Program for SpecialtyCare, Julie serves as direct supervisor for all incoming IONM trainees and is responsible for coordination and delivery of the core academic coursework in the program.

Question: How long does it take to complete the SpecialtyCare training program?

The short answer is it takes about a year.  Although students begin training as one cohort, each associate move though the initial phases at an individual pace, but typically students in the same cohort will enter Phase III (CNIM Prep) at the same time.  The training cohorts provide an awesome group support structure, and we have a lot of fun prepping together.  Upon successfully passing the ABRET board certification exam (CNIM), students complete a final capstone presentation. For some, this is presented a few weeks after passing the boards, while others choose to take a longer break before graduation.

Question: What happens once I complete the SNI training program?

After CNIM certification is achieved, the student completes a final capstone project and delivers a presentation to the local team. At this celebratory meeting, the leadership team awards the new graduate with a SpecialtyCare certificate, and the associate is promoted to the second level of our IONM career ladder.  This promotion is also awarded with a salary increase.

Question: What do SNIs find to be the most challenging aspect of training?

Challenges of course vary with the personal student experience, but one truth is held constant: everyone faces challenges.  Some students excel in the classroom right away, really absorbing and understanding materials quickly.  Others find the classroom environment more challenging and just want to dive into the clinical setting to perform.  Some students find it more of a challenge to adapt to the OR environment.  Some students face a challenge in learning to multitask and maintain situational awareness in the OR.  We know everyone will face challenges and stressors at some point, and part of our job as mentors and leaders is to support and coach our students through those obstacles.    

One of my favorite quotes from a favorite inspirer is “Awesome ain’t easy.”  The SNI training program introduces lots of unique challenges, but our graduates will always describe the training experience as an awesome one.  Great opportunities follow demonstration of great strength, and I’m so proud that our program knows how to build and exercise that strength in our students.

Question: How did SpecialtyCare handle clinical training during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic?

The pandemic has posed challenges – and those challenges were certainly felt in every aspect of healthcare, including training. The health and safety of our associates is our top priority and as one the largest IONM providers in the country our leadership ensured we had resources available to our teams across the country. In the height of the pandemic, our program quickly adapted and updated when and where the training program took place, rearranged training timelines when necessary, and ensured every element of the training program was still thoroughly covered. I’m grateful and proud to say that the February 2020 SNI training cohort (who were hired immediately preceding the onset of the pandemic) is on track for CNIM certification within about 13 months of hire, and every one of them remains dedicated to conquering graduation without a hitch!

Interested in learning more or applying for our program? Visit our IONM Training Program page.