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Spectrum Health Partners with GRCC to Fill In-Demand EEG Technician Positions

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — Applause filled the room Wednesday as Spectrum Health celebrated the first graduates of a new apprenticeship program, created in partnership with Grand Rapids Community College, to meet a demand for EEG neurodiagnostic technicians.

Beginning this month, the six graduates, all of whom were current Spectrum employees, will step into their new roles within the Grand Rapids healthcare system.

“It’s amazing,” said Phoebe Potter, 27, who worked as a cardiac monitoring technician before enrolling in the neurodiagnostic apprenticeship program. “I can help the patient more. I can be confident in my work and know that I am giving them the best possible care.

Spectrum launched the apprenticeship program last fall to address a shortage of EEG (electroencephalogram) neurodiagnostic technicians, said Brian Galdis, director of Spectrum Health Neurodiagnostics.

“We couldn’t find highly qualified, highly qualified people, and what we really looked at was how can we collaborate, what can we do to create our own program,” he said.

In addition to Spectrum and GRCC, the program was created in partnership with Lansing Community College, West Michigan Works! and the US Department of Labor. Spectrum recruited students from among its employees and provided education for free while students worked to advance their careers.

In their new positions, graduates are entitled to a starting salary of $22 per hour. The minimum starting wage in the healthcare system is $16 an hour. Students earn up to $25 per hour if they become certified and pass a board exam.

As EEG technicians, graduates help monitor electrical activity in patients’ brains. The procedure, for example, can be used to diagnose patients who have suffered a seizure and help create a treatment plan for them, Galdis said. It can also be used to determine if these patients are candidates for surgery.

The technology can also be used to monitor patients in intensive care.

“We can actually look at brain waves through all the different lobes of the brain,” Galdis said.

Kyle Smestad is another of six students graduating from the Spectrum apprenticeship program.

Most recently, the 29-year-old Grand Rapids resident worked in Spectrum’s heart monitoring unit, and before that he was a paramedic. He said he views the EEG program as a way to work with patients and pursue education while continuing to work and earn a salary at Spectrum.

“I started getting interested in it and it seemed really interesting to me,” Smestad said.

Continuing to work for Spectrum and earning a salary was also a selling point for Potter. Originally, she wanted to go to school to study radiology. But financially, she couldn’t afford to switch from full-time to part-time.

Now, she is happy to have advanced her career without hurting her results.

“I thought it was a perfect fit,” she said of the program. “I like the interaction with the patients. I like the growth of the department.

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