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Blog Feature

By: Rita Brooks, MEP, RST, RPSGT, REEG/EPT on March 13th, 2018

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A Year of Change Positions AAST for a Bright Future: Part I


AAST made monumental changes in 2017, beginning with a transition to a new management organization. The decision to move management of AAST from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) to SmithBucklin (SB) was a unanimous decision of the AAST Board of Directors (BOD) in 2016 made with great care and with ongoing stewardship of the organization as a primary consideration. During the transition, which began in January 2017 and was officially completed on July 1, 2017, AAST management and transition functions were the primary focus.

Benefits & Costs

The leadership realized that there would be costs and benefits to the move to new management. Anticipated costs included time to train new staff, data transfer to new information technology systems, and a loss of the experience and expertise provided by AASM. Benefits included increased staff time commitment from SmithBucklin, including an executive director, updated information technology infrastructure and a perceived independence from AASM. 

As always with a change of this magnitude, unanticipated costs and benefits became evident as the transition was accomplished. One cost has been a shift in the close partnership between AAST and AASM/APSS including suspension of participation in various projects and the end, after many decades, of a joint annual meeting. The 2017 Boston meeting was the last meeting to be held in conjunction with the APSS/SLEEP meeting; AAST leadership was informed that only associations managed by AASM would be permitted to participate, despite 39 years of joint meeting history. AAST representation on the AASM Scoring Manual Editorial Board ended in June 2017, another unanticipated cost. On the other hand, new opportunities for collaborations have emerged with other stakeholders in the field of sleep medicine.

Spring 2017 – New Beginnings  

The AAST BOD and the SmithBucklin team began planning management transition messages to past presidents, committee members, key stakeholders and AAST members. Key AAST initiatives continued throughout and following the management transition. AAST Board Director Elise Maher participated in the NIH/AASM sleep needs initiative as part of Healthy Sleep 2020. AAST, in partnership with the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), participated in the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) Future Health Professionals meeting for the second time, providing a hands-on demonstration of polysomnography and AAST pins for participants.

The work of the AAST BOD also continued, as transition plans were made and executed. A bylaws taskforce reviewed the AAST bylaws, suggested changes to update them and encompass rapidly occurring industry changes, and performed a legal review of the suggested changes. An AAST 2018 goal is to complete this update. The BOD also completed an update of the AAST organizational Policy & Procedure Manual, added new, pertinent policies to support the management of the organization, and submitted these for legal review.

The AAST BOD engaged McKinley to perform a Market Needs Assessment Survey in an effort to determine the educational needs of our members, and to support the AAST request to the CoA PSG and the BRPT to initiate efforts to move the entry level education requirement to an associate degree level. This was an extensive survey of professionals at all levels in the sleep technology arena that culminated in a review of current status and supported the need for higher education for the increasingly expanding and increasingly technical and clinical role of sleep technologists.  

Communications with AAST stakeholders and members continued with a Membership Town Hall Meeting in March, led by our new AAST Executive Director Abigail Lynn, AAST President Laura Linley and AAST President Elect Rita Brooks. The Town Hall meeting was well attended and provided answers to the questions generated by the management transition underway at that time. The meeting was recorded and posted on the AAST website as a resource for members who were unable to attend the live meeting. A Sleep Review article, “Changes Ahead for AAST,” was published in April outlining the management transition and what it means for AAST.

Transition planning and execution continued with development of integrated information technology (IT) options for a membership platform and database, continuing education credit (CEC) management platform, and a learning management system (LMS) that was robust and sufficiently advanced to handle interactive learning and clinical simulations. This was a key element of our management transition and required herculean efforts on the part of the IT team at SmithBucklin, which transferred all AAST membership data, CEC records for members and educational providers, and extensive electronic educational programs to three new integrated programs. The cut over from the AASM systems to the new SmithBucklin systems was completed quickly and with little interruption to AAST services thanks to the extensive planning and testing efforts of the entire IT team at SmithBucklin in cooperation with IT support from AASM.  

During this time and throughout the year, the AAST BOD and AAST member representatives participated as speakers and exhibitors in a variety of state and regional educational meetings across the country and planned and executed a successful AAST 39th Annual Meeting in Boston. AAST also partnered with other organizations to plan, develop and present educational offerings focused on the current and evolving state of sleep technology and sleep center essentials. These collaborative endeavors included educational conferences in conjunction with Southern Sleep Society and FOCUS in March, and Kentucky Sleep Society in October. Our new management team at SmithBucklin was involved in these educational programs and responsible for the Fall Course collaboration with the Kentucky Sleep Society, extensively supporting AAST operations while also heavily involved in the management transition process.  

By April, the SmithBucklin team was preparing for and organizing AAST BOD meetings, had assumed leadership for committee calls, Impact marketing calls, 2017 meeting planning calls and weekly calls with the president and president elect. A taskforce was formed to explore AAST branding that worked to explore the state of our current offerings, look and feel, and presence in the sleep arena. The work of this taskforce resulted in an updated look and feel to the AAST website, logo and A2Zzz magazine.

In April, AAST leaders supported our membership in combating licensure threats in Louisiana and Texas, assisting to assure that legislative initiatives that would impact sleep technologists were not enacted. In May and June, the AAST BOD continued to develop professional standards and guidelines. Updated technical and sleep educator job descriptions and new manager/director and ancillary sleep personnel job descriptions as well as updated AAST Core Competencies were approved and posted on the AAST website to support sleep center operations and managers. An AAST taskforce, led by Marietta Bibbs, completed the Patient Education Standardized Education Curriculum and Sleep Health Educator Core Competencies to support the BRPT Certification in Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH) credential.

Summer 2017 – Meeting in Boston

AAST Executive Director Abigail Lynn and SB staff attended the 39th Annual AAST Meeting and Sleep 2017 conference in Boston where AAST President Laura Linley provided a member update at the general membership meeting. AAST leadership met with many potential collaborators as well as professional organizational leaders Dr. Harold Smith, AADSM president, BRPT President Daniel Lane, and BRPT President-elect Jessica Schmidt. Two new board members, Brendan Duffy and Julie DeWitte, joined the AAST BOD at this meeting, as two long-serving board members, Marietta Bibbs and Elise Maher, transitioned off the board and the presidency transitioned to Rita Brooks.

The AAST Fellow Program was launched in June at the annual meeting as a means of recognizing those who have made significant and sustained contributions to the field of sleep technology. AAST Fellows have attained distinction through significant professional service to the AAST and to the field of sleep technology; significant professional contributions to the field; or prominent leadership, influence, and achievement in clinical practice, education or science. This is an exciting new program for AAST and sleep professionals.

Final preparations for the management move to SmithBucklin in July were underway for transitioning AAST financials, intellectual property and assets. Look for Part II of the look back at AAST's year later this week.