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Adventures in Sleep

Another Credential Won't Tell the Whole Story

Published February 25, 2011 12:13 PM by Penny Mehaffey

So, I have been thinking a lot lately about this situation with the AASM's new credential.  My first reaction to the comments by the AASM was "what?" and then OMG! I can't believe they said that!  I was insulted to the core of my professional self.  Eventually, a few articles later, I became less emotional and tried to look at both sides objectively.  And while I am no expert, I certainly do agree with Janice East that what we need is standardized formal training (schools) and not another test. 

We all know of those who are great at test taking and pass tests easily with little to no studying, and those who are not test takers but are great at what they do and  can tell you all you need to know about the given subject. Given the current state of training for sleep technologists,  I can't believe the AASM is surprised that some of those with credentials aren't fully job-ready.  

I remember how shocked I was when I first came to sleep. My experiences as an LPN qualified me for the position but I was nowhere near job-ready when I started hook-ups on my own, despite many years in nursing.   I had a brief orientation period and was then pushed off on my own. It used to take me 2 hours to get a hook-up done, forget about knowing what all those squiggly lines meant. I did know the EKG though, thank goodness. 

It was six months or so before I felt fully comfortable with my practice. It was only then that I was really able to focus my attention on the academics of sleep, so to speak.  And my experiences in sleep over and over again have been similar. It is not uncommon in sleep to hear the phrase "just read the manual, it's easy" or "nobody showed me how to and I figured it out." Contrast that to the nursing side of things that I was used to where you did not touch a new monitor until you had been properly inserviced on it by a company rep, demonstrated proficiency before being approved to use new equipment. Talk about a reality shock, or is it culture shock? 

Based on my experiences, and conversations I've had with peers, it would seem we have a whole sect of professionals who are largely self taught. I have heard of some labs where the medical director holds classes on a routine basis. This does not appear to be the norm though. The closest thing we have to formal training is ASTEP, a self paced, self guided curriculum that is totally dependent on the student's knowledge base and ability -- no outside input or support  from  a counselor of any kind.

So in the world of sleep we have only ourselves to learn from and only ourselves to blame.  I am very competent in my practice. I was fortunate that my employer actively participated in my education and still does. We were all sent to the Atlanta School of Sleep Medicine for intensive two-week training and within a few months we all sat for the registry exam. I highly recommend a program such as the Atlanta school. The classes I attended there made everything I had been exposed to come together for me. Before then I wasn't really confident in my knowledge and felt that what I was learning was very scattered. 

I am very proud to say that our lab was the first in our area to be accredited. Because of this, a certain level of expertise is expected and required of us. Have all of our techs come to us at the level we want? No. But we take them on at whatever level they're at assuming we will have to bring them up to where we need them to be. I would say it is a given. Until there is a formal sleep curriculum that  everyone is required to study, I see no reason to expect improvement just because there is another credential to test for.

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