For the Newbie
Entering the field of sleep medicine can be daunting and intense or it can be fun and fascinating. Most of the time it is all of those combined! With this in mind, I want to provide some “tricks of the trade,” so to speak, for a new technician, or “newbie,” in a new series called “For the Newbie.” The objective of this series is to help trainees adapt to the sleep field and to remind their trainers what it was like to go through the process. A technician’s mindset, practice and routine are all important factors that will be beneficial as they enter the field of sleep.
A Job Versus a Career
The first thing to consider with your mindset is if being a sleep technologist is going to be a job or if it will be a career. There’s nothing wrong with it just being a job — everyone needs a paycheck, especially during these times. Have you considered it to be a career though? There aren’t many careers out there that pay the equivalent of a degreed job while not requiring a diploma. Starting in sleep from scratch is a difficult pathway but it does make a better technologist in my opinion and it won’t be long before it will be a requirement to have at least an associate’s degree to become credentialed. Personally, I understand that requirement as it helps legitimize our profession, but I anticipate it will hurt rural areas that aren’t able to find eligible technologists in their geographic area.
The field of sleep medicine is very diverse. There are many different opportunities and with the right mindset, the sky is the limit as to what you will achieve by making sleep a career. It is rewarding and you’ll be glad you made the commitment.
Overcoming Challenges at the Start
On the other hand, it may be too soon to tell if it will be a career for you, and that’s okay too! It can take a while for some people to decide. There are many factors that play into that decision. There are also challenges and hurdles you will have to overcome before knowing if this is what you want to be doing as a career.
One such hurdle is learning the lingo ― which can be confusing at first. At the beginning, you might ask: “What is a PSG, PAP or ST study?” or “What is that cannula thingy that goes in the nose?” Don’t worry. Learning the terminology and equipment will come in time. There are many resources out there that can help you learn it all and before you know it, you’ll be saying things like “I split a PSG all the way to ST,” “I think the patient will be back for an ASV," and “Oh! by the way, we need more PTAF cannulas.”
Resources and Networking
AAST is a tremendous resource for everyone in the sleep industry. I suggest becoming a member as quickly as possible. You will find help all over the website, but three key places for a new technologist to check out are the blog, the A2Zzz magazine and the “Career” drop-down menu where you’ll find the practice guidelines on how to perform studies and a lot of answers to questions you will have.
Join your state’s sleep society and attend national conferences to expand your knowledge and get involved. Sleep societies and conferences allow technologists to network and learn more about our craft. Ask questions — the only stupid question is one not asked. The more you learn, the more you understand. The more you understand, the more fascinating it gets. Once you realize the many different ways you will help change the lives of your patients, you will likely develop a passion for what sleep technologists do.
Understand this process will take some time. Know there will be times that are frustrating. Don’t let that get you down. Persevere. Be positive. Learn, grow and broaden your understanding of our profession. Your determination will pay off as you receive self-fulfillment by helping people live longer, happier and healthier lives by improving their sleep and rest. It all starts with your mindset. You’ve got this!
In the next “For the Newbie,” I’ll talk about the purpose and importance of practice as one continues their journey in becoming a sleep technologist. In the meantime, please feel free to send me your thoughts, comments, and suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “For the Newbie” in the subject line and I will respond as quickly as possible.
About Geoff Eade, RPSGT, CCSH
Geoff Eade, RPSGT, CCSH, has been in the sleep field for 13 years. He received his training through the A-STEP pathway and is now the clinical lead technologist of a four-bed sleep center, the current president of the Mississippi Sleep Society, a sleep consultant and serves on the AAST Standards and Guidelines Committee. He lives in Brandon, Mississippi, and is enrolled at Jackson State University for his bachelor’s degree in health care administration.