The Future of Sleep: Thoughts from Its Leaders
The people helping to create the field of sleep are my mentors, role models, and the people I admire. I believe they have some great information to share, so I asked five questions of five people who I admire: Melinda Trimble, current AAST president; Dr James Krainson, a sleep specialist who runs a Miami sleep school; Rock Conner, a member of the GASP board; Sherri Ruth, CSS president; and Joe Anderson, a teacher and entrepreneur in the field of sleep.
Below are the answers from Melinda Trimble RPSGT, RST, (the first person I asked) and James Krainson MD, FCCP FAASM, RPSGT, someone who is truly dedicated to helping technicians to get educated and has donated his time to Florida Association of Sleep Technologists (FAST).
How did you get into the field?
Melinda Trimble (MT): It was 1987. I was working as a respiratory therapist at a local hospital when one of the area neurologists, Dr. David Brown, opened up the first sleep center in northwest Arkansas at Washington Regional Medical Center. The head of the respiratory department at Regional asked me if I wanted to learn to be a sleep technologist. I was very interested, but it was such a new field of medicine that I almost did not take the offer. Looking back I am so glad I said yes!
Dr. James Krainson (JK): I had a strong interest in sleep starting with my training at Mount Sinai. I saw how many people were not being helped because other physicians had no training in sleep. I decided to help my patients and be an advocate for sleep disorder awareness at the same time.
Why did you decide to go into the leadership role?
MT: In 1999, I developed an educational training program for sleep technologist at Washington Regional. Part of that program was a yearly regional meeting. It was during a meeting in Branson, MO that I met Kelly Million, then-president of the APT (Association of Polysomnographic Technologists). Kelly approached me and told me how wonderful the meeting was and asked if I would be interested in working with the APT as the education committee chair. As they say, the rest is history.
JK: I have always wanted to be a teacher. At this time of my career, I can still practice and find time to teach.
What is the most important lesson you have learned while working in the field of sleep?
MT: The value of friendship. I have had the most wonderful experiences over the last 24 years. The friends who I have made, I will value and hold dear for the rest of my life. It has been a wonderful journey.
JK: The same message that I learned early in medical school. Always listen to the patient and respect the fact that, both medically and otherwise, every patient is unique.
What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you while working?
MT: I am not sure; I have had so many fun and enjoyable times as a sleep technologist. I am sure my staff would love to answer this one.
JK: After I treated a patient for his OSA and his libido returned, his wife asked me to tell him to stay away from her. (On the initial visit she complained that he didn't give her enough attention.)
What do you see for the future of sleep and of sleep technicians?
MT: You know that is the million dollar question. I wish I had the answer. I do think we will see changes in health care that will have an effect on sleep and the sleep technologist. As AAST president, I have spent most of my time over the last year trying to bring together the leadership within our field to look at and talk about this very topic. My hope is that as we come together we will start to have a clearer view of the possibilities that are open to us as sleep professionals.
JK: I hope that sleep techs become a more cohesive group, so that the professional goals of the tech can be realized. I am sure that eventually licensure will come about state by state and the profession will become more recognized and respected.
I will share the other three interviews in the coming weeks and will send out these five questions to more leaders in the field. If there is someone who inspires you and you'd like to hear their thoughts, let me know and I'll ask them.