AAST Member of the Month: David Warkentin
Meet David Warkentin, the AAST member of the month!
Every month, the AAST will highlight the accomplishments of one of our talented members. Want to nominate someone or yourself as the AAST's member of the month? Fill out our form at the end of this article!
David Warkentin, lead sleep technologist for St. Charles Hospital’s Sleep Disorders Center, has always had an interest in patient care and science. As a graduate of Stony Brook University in New York, David was working on a per diem basis (while going through a pre-med program) at a hospital until fellow AAST member Brendan Duffy offered him employment at the St. Charles Hospital's Sleep Disorders Center.
"I've always been passionate about the biological sciences, especially in terms of healthcare and giving patients the medical care they need," David said.
Although he did not have any specific educational background in sleep medicine, David was able to jump right into the field by starting the way many others did: by working night shifts as a trainee sleep technologist.
"The field of sleep medicine has grown steadily by leaps and bounds since I started in June 2006 as a fledgling trainee. Back then, there weren't any specific state licensure requirements for becoming a sleep technologist, so you could basically work night shifts and give [the profession] a shot," David added. “It was a great opportunity for me to learn more about the medical field as well as putting me in contact with some amazing physicians and like-minded individuals who took what they did very seriously.”
According to David, meeting Brendan Duffy, the center's coordinator, marked a pivotal moment in his career. Not only did Brendan offer him a job within sleep medicine, but also stayed on as a coach and mentor to David's career as a sleep technologist. David obtained his RPSGT credential in 2008-after 18 months of on-the-job training that made him eligible to sit for the RPSGT board examination. He continued to work nights as a credentialed RPSGT for the next few years. In recognition of his growing passion for sleep medicine and patient care, David was promoted to lead sleep technologist in 2014 - the same time New York began offering sleep technologists licensure as a recognized state-wide medical profession.
Recently, David was featured in a Sleep Review article as an expert source on making PAP adherence easier for patients with facial hair.
"Several things in my personal life changed, I ended up getting married and eventually became the father of twins! So I decided to put my aspirations of medical school on the back burner. I had come to find that I really enjoyed the professional life I had [as a sleep technologist] because it gave me the autonomy I needed for my family while still allowing me to give patients the care and education they needed, " said David. "That's when I decided that being a sleep technologist was going to become my career focus. I joined the AAST as a member in 2014 to become more connected to the sleep technologist profession and to engage with other members."
Mentorship played a key role in David's professional trajectory as a sleep technologist and it's really what makes one's membership to a professional society invaluable.
"In a lot of mom and pop sleep labs, you really don't get the access you need to your medical director and other important figures who can better inform you to whether being a sleep technologist is something you would like to pursue as a career, but I was lucky enough to have close relationships with sleep physicians and people like Brendan who really push you beyond your comfort zone so you can grow and improve within your position," David added.
To this day David has continued to pay the mentorship he received forward by focusing on ways to better educate his patients.
"Part of the reason I'm so passionate about sleep medicine, is because it's a preventative discipline. Once a patient's sleep is corrected, many other health issues can fall into line. I enjoy teaching people about how they can easily improve their lives with the proper sleep education" David said.
David's advice to those looking to become sleep technologists?
Find a program that offers you a degree in sleep technology. Especially if you plan on working in a state that offers specific licensure requirements for sleep technologists, getting clinical rotational experience through an accredited degree program can give you an employment advantage.
But most importantly, continue your education. Whether it's getting a degree that will further your education or reading up on the latest innovations in sleep medicine, consuming as much information and knowledge as you can has been the cornerstone to David's success.
Want to nominate someone you know as our next member of the month? Click on the button below to nominate someone today!