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Adventures in Sleep

Sleep Credentials: The Infighting Continues

Published January 27, 2011 2:02 PM by Amy Reavis
In sleep there seems to be a lot of infighting over control of who will provide credentials for the technicians. With such a young field this does not help out professionalism and it makes our field look undervalued. The latest group to get involved is the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). They have decided that since the Board of Registered Polysomnographers could not create a test with a high enough pass rate, they should take over the testing of sleep technicians.

This is the group that created the A-Step program, an online educational program for people who have come into the field through on-the-job training. It consists of 18 units that cover the basics of polysomnography. It is not a complete education but in conjunction with a good on-the-job training program it can give people the starting point to become excellent and well=educated sleep technicians.

The reason they feel that they needed to take this step was due to the low pass rate of the BRPT exams. As a manager of a lab with several technicians who work hard, have done the A-Steps and have failed the test, I can tell you it can be frustrating. I personally took the test myself and passed it but I believe my background in respiratory therapy assisted me because I have a background in understanding the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. I did think that some of the questions about such issues as pen deflection and the old paper sleep systems were not as useful as asking me questions about computer-based systems. 

What will this mean for the field is unclear. Which tests will end up on top? Will being an RPSGT mean anything? Will all of us be required to take additional tests? Will the NBRC see this as a way to push their credentialing test forward and reopen the discussion about licensure? All these are unanswered questions while people sitting in an office make decisions that effect our field.

7 comments

Since when is the sleep field part of the "no child left behind" program? We're going to now have medical professionals who meet standards only because those standards have been lowered to meet their sub-par perfomance? Call me crazy, but I would prefer that someone who actually excels in their field be the person working on me and that they get paid what they are worth for doing so.

I think Mr. Townsend hit the nail on the head. Unfortunately, I fear it's inevitable that we will find ourselves on a dramatically lower pay scale in the near future. I think this will not only be because of techs being abundantly available due to lower credential standards, but also because we will be replaced in a large part by automated equipment and take-home testing.

Our hard work over the years  has contributed greatly in the development of new technology in the field and it continues to do so. That being said, there's a certain amount of resentment that comes from knowing that you are essentially working yourself out of a job. I now know how the ex-cashier must feel every time they see a self checkout aisle at their old grocery store.

Justin, Sleep - RPSGT April 28, 2011 1:35 AM
Lebanon PA

I do not believe a new credential from AASM  is needed but I do  believe the current governing  sysytem of the BRPT needs more transparency with an "elected" rather than "selected" board of directors that can make independant decisions.  I am disappointed in both entities  that seem to have missed their intended goals and have  made missteps that have splintered the technical staffs that serve throughout the nation.

Hopefully, they both will reconsider how they are presently managing their organizations, make the necessary adjustments, and work together for the good of the patients and the sleep techs that actually do the job.

Brendan January 31, 2011 1:44 PM

I have been in SLEEP for over 11 years and registered for 3 years. I understood the test would be hard and studied several months before taking it. I passed on my first try. My coworker did as well. We both worked hard for the right to put R before PSGT on the records we run, and the pay increase we got for succeeding. I never took the modules that are required now; But I work for a hospital that strives for the best, and encourages the constant and further education of it's technicians. The test can be passed w/ the support of a good team and hard work. To lower the bar would undermine all the hard work that has been achieved by all RSPGT's.

Pamela, SLEEP - RPSGT, Swedish American Sleep Disorders Center January 29, 2011 12:53 AM
Rockford IL

When I arrived in Lafayette, I had 9 techs and only two of them were registered (one in sleep, the other in respiratory).  I now have 8 techs and all but 2 are registered (the one who left was also registered in sleep before leaving), and this is in 4 years!  The RPSGT is hard, but, it should be as it forces the tech to study and learn what and why they are doing what they are doing (stage recognition, CPAP titration, etc.).  If we accept a lower standard than the BRPT, we are downgrading our value/knowledge as technologists.  

Shelia Osterman, Sleep Center - Chief Tech, St. Elizabeth Regional Health January 28, 2011 8:29 PM
Lafayette IN

@Rock Conner: Excellent, well-written commentary on the issue of the AASM wanting to leap into yet another area. As you wrote, the AASM ought look for ways to work with the BRPT instead of acting as an adversarial force.

Dave Jackson, Sleep Awareness/Relief Programs/Support - Executive Director, Awake In America, Inc. January 28, 2011 10:14 AM
Philadelphia PA

Doctors order the sleep studies. They do the interps and write the prescriptons. They have DME companies next door to the labs. They are the medical directors who pick the staff. They sign off on the policy and procedures and doctors are also the ones who sign off on accreditation for each others facility.

To me it's real simple. If they increase the pass rate you flood the market. More oil equals lower gas prices. More techs equal lower labor cost. Lower labor cost equals more revenue for...the doctors.

From what I've been seeing and hearing the market is already saturated with qualified candidates for sleep labs. Increasing the pass rate will be like throwing gas on the fire.

You need a seperation of church and state.  

Randy Townsend January 28, 2011 5:14 AM

There may be some tweaking needed to optimize the sleep tech credential, but I resent the sleep docs group (AASM) jumping in to compete with rather than support the BRPT.

And I, too, felt during my recent taking of the RPSGT exam that my respiratory background was helpful.

Rock Conner, RRT, RPSGT January 27, 2011 8:27 PM
Atlanta GA

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    Adventures in Sleep
    Occupation: Sleep technicians
    Setting: Various sleep facilities
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