Today is National Psychometrists Day! The first question most people ask is, “What on Earth is a psychometrist?”
It’s the great job you’ve never heard of!
A psychometrist (also psychometrician) is a clinician who is responsible for the administration and scoring of psychological and neuropsychological tests in partnership with a clinical psychologist or clinical neuropsychologist. They play a critical role in ensuring that patients who have neurological, developmental and/or psychiatric conditions are carefully assessed using complex cognitive and behavioral measures.
Here’s the answer to some more questions about psychometrists:
What exactly do psychometrists do?
Psychometrists earn a bachelor’s and, often, Master’s degree and a clinical license to administer measures of behavior, mood and cognition. Some tests may focus on memory or attention while others may test for planning, organization or academic skills.
The range is really quite large, which means psychometrists must be prepared for a wide range of measurements during a given exam. Exams may be relatively brief or may go as long as 6-8 hours depending on the clinical question and need.
Where do psychometrists work at Michigan Medicine?
Psychometrists work across multiple settings, in greatest numbers in both the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation as well as in psychiatry. Our psychometry clinicians work with patients from infant and toddler ages through geriatric ages and everything in between. While generally psychometrists work in outpatient settings, our psychometry clinicians on occasion provide inpatient support as well. Psychometrists are often heavily involved in intern and fellow training given their advanced knowledge about test measurement.
Do they just give tests?
Psychometrists definitely give many tests, but they do so much more. Psychometrists also evaluate behavior, movement, mood and engagement and are critical clinical partners in the assessment and treatment of patients. They have specialized training in test measurement and must use precision work to appropriately score and produce a valid final score profile. Finally, they partner with the primary treating faculty, interns and fellows to help as a team pull together a final diagnostic profile.
What is challenging about working as a psychometrist?
Here’s a sample of responses from the organization’s psychometrists:
- It can be very challenging to get the best performance possible out of a young child with ADHD who is behaviorally dysregulated so that he or she cannot sit still or attend to the test instructions. At the same time, it’s just as tough to comfort a geriatric patient who becomes tearful when they are frustrated by poor performance on standardized memory testing. We want to maintain rapport and soothe our patients when they are in distress, while at the same time obtaining valid test data that will help with diagnosing their condition.
- A challenging aspect about being a clinical psychometrist is being able to keep a defiant and uncooperative patient engaged with testing. Most of the patients I see are pediatrics and understandably so, some don’t want to be testing with me. I completely understand how they feel. Eight-year-old me would be a fan of missing school, but not if it meant I had to have my thinking skills tested for 5-6 hours. One of the ways I try to get around this issue is to try and make testing fun and as enjoyable as possible for them while getting the information needed to complete the evaluation.
- The job requires the ability to think quickly and to be able to adapt to the person/situation in front of you. Often, the way a patient presents “on paper” is very different from their presentation in the office, so the plan for the day can change without much notice. We ask our patients to do very challenging tasks and for many of them, a day with us is not their favorite day. Being able to manage behavior and emotions can be difficult at times, but also rewarding.
What is your favorite part about working as a psychometrist with patients?
- My favorite part is getting to work with patients one-on-one and collaborating with doctors to meet a patient’s individual needs. I also really enjoy receiving positive feedback from the patients and families on how we achieve this.
- I test patients across the lifespan — the youngest patient I’ve had was 15 months old, and the oldest was in their 90s. It’s fascinating to me to see how our testing can differentiate various neurological conditions (such as determining if a diagnosis is Alzheimer’s dementia vs. vascular dementia vs. dementia with Lewy bodies). Every day is a different patient with a different referral question and a new opportunity to learn more about various conditions.
- I love working with a wide variety of people and being able to follow the progress of those who return to us for repeat evaluations. The brain is fascinating to me, so I enjoy seeing how it compensates for and adapts to severe injury or illness. I’m often inspired by our patients and all they have overcome regarding their illness/injury.
How can I learn more about the practice of psychometry?
National Association of Psychometrists: https://napnet.org/