For the Newbie: Routine
In my previous “For the Newbie” articles, I discussed the newbie technician’s mindset and practice. In part three, I am going to talk about routine. Let’s take a closer look at how developing a routine will benefit you as you continue your journey as a sleep technician.
A long time ago, I was given a phrase that stuck with me: “Bust your tail so you can sit on your tail.” This pretty much follows the saying, “Work smarter not harder.” A solid routine will help you accomplish these concepts.
Let me start by saying the routine I am going to present is only one example. There are many ways to develop a routine. The idea here is to develop a routine that will help you be more efficient while maintaining accuracy and quality care.
Checking In and Patient Documentation
As soon as you clock in for work, check your email for any notifications or communication from your superiors. Once pressing emails have been addressed, open all software programs you use to run studies. During this time, gather the information you have on the patients you are seeing that night — height, weight, body mass index (BMI), medications, symptoms, etc. — and enter as much of this information as you can into the software programs so you won’t have to do it later. Now is a good time to put together the questionnaires and documents your patients will need to complete or sign before their studies as well.
Setting Up Your Workspace
Gather your equipment and lay out the leads and electrodes in the order you will apply them. Set up your tape, paste and any other supplies you will need.
Patient Arrival and Sleep Study
After the patient arrives, greet them, take them to their room, talk to them, have them fill out the required paperwork and begin the setup process. Initiate the study and chart as you run it. Most sleep labs require documentation every 30 minutes but follow your lab’s specific policies. After the study ends, have the patient complete the morning paperwork before leaving. Once the patient has left, clean the equipment, finish charting and any other computer entry required and clock out.
Repetition and Consistency
Once you have developed a routine, it is important to repeat that routine exactly the same way and in the same order for at least a few shifts. By doing this, you will develop the habits that will make you more efficient, making that part of your job easier. You will develop a sense of muscle memory and will eventually perform these actions without even realizing it. Developing efficiencies allows simultaneous communication with your patient as you work (as discussed in part two: “Practice”).
There have been many times when I have gotten to the end of my second setup and had to seriously think about where the time went! Most technologists, when they were newbies, performed their first setups in well over an hour. After they developed their own system or routine, their setup times likely dropped to between 20 minutes for a bald patient and 40 minutes for a complex patient.
Your routine will likely change with experience. As you discover what slows you down, or you get a suggestion from a coworker that helps speed up your process, you’ll want to make alterations. Keep most of your routine in place and insert the alterations. Be consistent with your routine so it becomes natural. Strive to assure accuracy and maintain a high level of quality care for your patients as well as satisfy the expectations of management.
I know this may sound a little obsessive/compulsive, but it is critical in making your job easier and more efficient. Your trainer or mentor will likely agree that some form of routine is important as you grow as a technician. Ask your coworkers or supervisor for suggestions if you are struggling to decrease your setup times.
As you evolve as a sleep technician, your routine will be critical. A well-developed routine will make your job easier and your performance more efficient. The AAST website provides guidelines to assist you but don’t be afraid to ask your trainer for help or clarification! It is important for trainers to provide the proper support and encouragement to new technicians as they develop their routine so that they can improve their confidence, efficiency and abilities as new sleep professionals.
In the next “For the Newbie,” I’ll talk about the purpose and importance of education as one continues their journey toward 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.