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Adventures in Sleep

Neuro World vs. Sleep World

Published April 4, 2013 8:33 AM by Amy Reavis

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.

posted by Amy Reavis


It is the nature of work in the sleep lab that causes us to be more involved with our patients. We have 12 hours with one or two patients, and educating them about therapy is very important for successful outcomes. I see the same situation in floor care, where we have repeated contact with patient's throughout the day, and over the course of their stay in the hospital. The autonomy we have and how we are taught our respective crafts is very different. EEG Techs only have an hour and half to two hours for sleep deprived or routine eeg's and, while you try to take a complete history, your time spent with the patient is limited as compared to either RRT/Sleep Techs. Also, unless a seizure is provoked, the reading of the eeg is in the MD's hands. The Sleep Tech gets the instant gratification of getting to treat the problem rather than wait and watch as the EEG Tech has to do.

    All of this being said, I enjoy my newest endeavor in EEG and fully intend to continue educating my neuro patients on their conditions as I already do with my "lungers" and "OSA'ers". It's part of respiratory and sleep culture to educate, so maybe that is where the change needs to happen. EEG/Neuro Tech training needs to incorporate patient education instead of relying on the Nuerologist solely. I don't think of it as an option to educate or note-it should be regarded as our responsibility.

Jennifer Morin, Respiratory Therapy - Registered Resp Therapist/EEG Tech/Sleep Tech, Androscoggin Valley Hospital April 28, 2013 3:14 PM
Berlin NH

 I am recently retired. I started in Sleep disorders in 1989 with a course at Stanford University. I was in Cardiopulmonary Technology since 1975, before Respiratory therapists were even liscensed in California, and worked in pulmonary function eventuall becoming supervisor of pulmonary and sleep labs at a major Los Angeles hospital. I have enjoyed being a tech in the sleep lab in a small rural hospital for the last several years and am now working on call after training my replacement. I have seen so many patients have such amazing results with treatment for their sleep disorder that I have become a "cheer leader" for polysomnography and treatmen t of sleep disorders. I definately agree that techs can really help patients with education and compliance with treatments.

Beverly Martin, Respiratory Care - polysomnographer, Hospital(Bear Lake Momorial Hospital) April 25, 2013 3:31 PM
Montpelier ID

I Have Gone To Conferences For Both Sleep An EEG Together. It Was  Eryconfusing At Times.He Sessions That Where SuppoSe Tobe Forboth Groups Together Left Sleep In The Dark An Just Talked All EEG. It Would Be Very Nice If The 2 Fields Could Work More Together. Especially Siince We See So Many Patient That Have EEG's Or Seizure Problems. , Unfortunately At The ConferenceI I was At Felt Very Out Of Place.

Linda Hildebrant, sleep - RRT/RPSGT, Mclaren April 22, 2013 1:43 PM
Munger MI

I agree.  As an RT, I was expected to interact more with patients.  Alarge part of my job was teaching patients and their loved ones.

Sandy Ricket, Sleep - RRT RPSGT, Nemours April 22, 2013 10:24 AM
Orlando FL


Duke Zaman, Sleep EEg - Sleep Tech, Hartford Hospital April 14, 2013 2:07 AM
Hartfor CT

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