Kathryn Hansen has been in neurodiagnostics for 55 years. You may know her from the talks she has given on CPT coding though ASET-the Neurodiagnostic Society.
Hansen launched her career at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She later developed a neurodiagnostic program for a neurologist in Colorado, where she also completed her R. EEG T. And finally, Hansen spent 31 years expanding the neurodiagnostics program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Kentucky.
Hansen is also a certified processional coder and medical auditor and owns Integration Consultants LLC. Her company helps hospitals and medical practices maintain compliance with state and federal regulatory standards.
We had the opportunity to interview Hansen for her insights about the current state and future of neurodiagnostics. We lightly edited answers for clarity.
NI: What is something interesting that people might not know about you?
Hansen: I am an avid skydiver. My impetus for doing it was watching George Bush, Sr. jump out of the plane when he was in his 80s. I said, ‘I can do that.’ Well, I’m in my 70s, and I am doing it.
I have also climbed the Inca trail in Peru. After I had gone through the loss of a husband, I said, ‘You know what? I’m just going to take off.’ I spent three weeks climbing into the temples of the Incan culture in remote parts of Peru, and I also climbed the Inca trail to experience peace and serenity while stretching my limits of physical and mental endurance.
NI: How did you get into neurodiagnostics?
Hansen: I was at a very young age. I’d always wanted to serve in the healthcare arena and I wanted to have a career that required ongoing study. I had to always be challenged and I wanted to learn, learn, learn.
I decided to walk in without an appointment to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to their HR department. I was all of 5’3″, at that point a tiny girl, and I said, “I want a job where I learn and earn, and I want to work with the brain.”
They said, ‘I think we have just the position for you.’ That was in the neurology department, in what we called then the EEG department. That was in 1966.
NI: What was different about neurodiagnostics when you started?
Hansen: We used paper and ink. Those of us who are old enough to remember this laugh about how our lab coats were splattered with ink by the end of the shift.
We made our own collodion. We did not buy it. It was like making soap. Over 48 hours, it’s like a glue and then we would actually tube it ourselves. It had ether in it, and at one point, being industrious and wanting to get my collodion stirred before I left on Friday, I got a little too close and sniffed it too long and had to sit down outside and wait for the effects of the ether to pass.
We also made our own electrodes. We soldered our tin electrode cups and the input ends at the end of the electrode. I had great talent with the soldering iron.
NI: Where do you see the profession going in the future?
Hansen: It’s going to require credentialing. I think that’s going to be the differentiation for those that really grow in the field. That doesn’t mean that those without it can’t, but there’s going to be a narrowing of opportunity.
If I were mentoring any one of our younger techs, I’d say, get as many credentials as possible because you learn, and you grow through learning. And it’s a recognition of commitment to your career. Right now, EEG techs around the nation tell me that they’re just not respected for their skillset. And I think ongoing learning is one way of doing it.
Special thanks to Kathryn Hansen, BS, R. EEG T., CPC, CPMA, Owner at Integration Consultants, LLC in Lexington, Kentucky, for her willingness to share her story.