Role of Techs Includes Guiding Patients to Other Therapies
I believe our role as sleep techs is not one of just running a clean study but is also one of educating. We tend to talk to patients when we are setting them up and in the morning. We also tread a slim line between what we can and cannot share. One of the issues I see us assisting with is the use of complimentary therapy to help a patient who may have compliance issues.
Oral appliances have received a bad rap and many physicians believe they do not work. This is not the case for many patients. It may not fix their apnea but it could assist them in a decrease in pressure; especially when the patient needs a high pressure or if the therapy did not eliminate the respiratory events. It is also good therapy for those who just snore, as studies are tying snoring alone to heart disease. If we become educated about oral appliance and also work with our ordering physicians about suggesting this therapy for their non-compliant patients, we increase our role in patient care. We can also help the dentists who are well-educated about dental appliances to grow their practices. They in turn can help grow the field of sleep since they can identify patients with a high likelihood of sleep apnea for your referring physicians.
Being part of the marketing of our labs and our physicians' practices should be in the thoughts of sleep techs who want to stay in the field. We need not limit ourselves to being techs, but rather should consider ourselves part of the patient's team.
We can also recommend other products to help patients be successful. A technologist and lab manager in my area, Kristina St. Peter-Weaver, is fantastic at being a patient advocate and support system. Her AWAKE support group is a thriving community and she is constantly bringing new information and equipment ideas to her patients. She also has the support of her local physicians because she understands the necessity of being part of a team. She is truly a role model for the new sleep lab. She manages to integrate home sleep testing, lab testing, compliance and education into one very strong department in a smaller community.