Neuro World vs. Sleep World
I have been a respiratory therapist since 1986 and have loved the field with all my heart. I started on sleep in the late 1990s and have a passion for sleep that is just as strong, if not stronger, than my passion for respiratory therapy. I can tell you that the people in both of these fields are motivated by the same drive for education of their patients, caring for their patients and changing the world one person at a time.
I entered the neuro world this past year when I took my current position as program director of a college NDT program. The one thing I can tell you is that neuro people and sleep people do not understand each other. They do not understand what motivates the other, what drives the other and really how they view their job and their interactions with patients.
I really noticed the difference when I was attending a conference last year and I see it more the further I dive into the field of EEG. When I meet with groups of sleep techs we talk about growing the field of sleep, educating our patients, doing studied and therapy follow up, and learning more about how we can serve our patients.
When I attended the neuro conferences, they talked about bringing sleep into their fold and, since we already worked nights, hpw we would be excellent for performing long-term monitoring on the night shift. When I was in one class they were talking about how patients were not educated on some aspects of epilepsy, and I asked why they did not do that themselves? I was informed that it was the physician's job and we were not supposed to talk about conditions with the patient.
The idea of not being able to generally educate a patient about the disorder they are being tested for would seem wrong to most sleep technologists I know. They want that interaction with their patients. They want to do more than just perform a test.
The other issue I find very different pertains to the conferences and the CEUs we need to obtain. EEG techs and other neurology techs are required to do some live CEUs. They also tend to go to bigger conferences because there are fewer of them than sleep techs. Sleep techs, on the other hand, can gain all their CEUs online or through free and low-cost education provided by equipment companies such as RESMED and Respironics. This usually happens in smaller groups and if we do go to bigger conferences it is because they have something on the program we can get nowhere else, such as the Sleep Educators course.
I believe sleep and neuro can work together but there would have to be understanding and acceptance of the two different places we come from. The approach would be to educate each other rather than say your role would be only this, or you should do only that. It would be tough, but it can be done and I think it would help improve both fields for the techs.