Hannah Hubacher was drawn to FVTC by the incomparable Neurodiagnostic Technology program
Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore is one of the most well-known and renowned hospitals in the world. It’s consistently ranked in the top five hospitals in the nation, and people come from all over the world to seek care from the specialists there.
It’s also where 23-year-old FVTC alumna Hannah Hubacher chose to start her career as a neurodiagnostic technologist.
“I always knew I wanted to work in a large hospital somewhere,” says the Oconto native, who loves the urban environment and access to healthcare that big cities offer. “We didn’t even have a hospital in my hometown. Living and working where I do now is like night and day.”
Hannah found the FVTC Neurodiagnostic Technologist (NDT) program somewhat by chance. She had been taking general education classes at NWTC when she learned about a new program that was coming to Fox Valley Tech, so she inquired. “There wasn’t a lot of information on it yet, but I started doing research and realized that there were no other two-year options in Wisconsin for neurodiagnostic technology,” she says. “It was really unique and I was fascinated immediately.”
What is Neurodiagnostic Technology?
NDTs study and record electrical activity in the brain and nervous system alongside neurologists. Among other tools, they use electroencephalography (better known as EEG) to monitor patients and support diagnoses. “We monitor your brain activity, making sure everything is working the way it should,” says Hannah. “I work with a wide range of patients of all ages, from babies to 100-year-olds.”
Heidi Hartle, department chair of the NDT program explains: “Any test dealing with the nerves, the brain and the spinal cord, that’s what we do. There are five main areas of neurology that we perform tests in. One of them is brain wave studies, or the EEG. That's kind of the gold standard for neurodiagnostics, and the most common test. Those tests are performed on patients with epilepsy, seizures, traumatic brain injuries, any type of thing where we need to figure out function of the brain.
“Another area is nerve conduction studies where we are testing peripheral nerves. We are determining if the patient has carpal tunnel, neuropathies, any numbness and tingling in hands and feet. We can determine the health of your nerves. We do sleep studies. That's a very common one. We perform polysomnography studies, to determine sleep apnea.
“Also, an advanced part of our field is neurosurgery. We monitor in neurosurgery, so we are sitting in the surgical room, whether it's brain surgery, surgery on the spinal cord, or a scoliosis case. We’re in there acting as the eyes and ears to protect the nervous system while the surgeon is working, making sure the patient doesn't come out with any deficits.”
The program launched in 2017, with Heidi at the helm. “I heard that Fox Valley Tech was looking to start a program, so I reached out to the dean and said, ‘If you need someone to teach, I would be absolutely interested in doing it.’ And here we are today.”
Prior to teaching, Heidi had been working as an NDT at Prevea Health. Now that she’s made the leap to the classroom, she has found joy in witnessing the light bulb moments. “I love seeing the students’ expressions and their eyes light up when something finally clicks. Then they get excited and then they try to help other students understand,” she says.
Students like Hannah appreciate that level of commitment. “The program that Heidi developed is like no other,” she explains. “I see that even more now that I’ve been working for two years. This field is wide, and there are so many different specializations you can go into—but Heidi teaches all of it. It’s challenging, but when you graduate, you’re 100% prepared for success and feeling confident to work anywhere.”
Including Johns Hopkins.
“When I found out that Hannah got accepted to Johns Hopkins, I felt like a happy mama bird,” says Heidi. “I was so proud of her because in the medical field, Johns Hopkins is elite. It’s no small feat that she’s there.”
Nationwide, there is a shortage of qualified neurodiagnostic technologists. There are more jobs than technicians available.
The need for NDTs has grown about 20% over the past few years and will continue to be an in-demand career.
NDT graduates at FVTC enjoy 100% grad employment six months after graduation.