What Credentials are Required to Become a Sleep Technologist?
The field of sleep medicine is expanding rapidly due to new treatments, advanced technology and increased public awareness about how sleep disorders affect people. As such, there is a higher demand for interested and qualified candidates to obtain sleep technologist credentials, and in some states licensing, to practice in a variety of roles.
What is a Sleep Technologist?
Sleep technologists are trained in sleep medicine and assist in patient care evaluation and follow-up of sleep disorders that are recognized in the present International Classification of Sleep Disorders. This profession is considered as distinct and separate from other health professions. Sleep technologists work in laboratories for sleep-related breathing disorders, sleep centers, industry and academic research settings, Durable Medical Equipment (DME) settings, non-facility based settings and home environments under a sleep specialist's direction.
Sleep technologists are credentialed by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT), the American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) or the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) and assist sleep specialists in physiological testing and monitoring, clinical assessment, diagnosis, prevention and management of sleep-related disorders. They use a variety of therapeutic and diagnostic tools to provide patients of all ages with proper care and education.
Almost all sleep technologists agree that working with patients directly is the most rewarding part of their career. Being able to help a patient with OSA, for example, and provide them with relief from their symptoms so they can get a full night’s sleep finally after years of suffering gives sleep technologists much satisfaction.
Additionally, sleep medicine is among the few careers where the patients show immense improvement in such a short period of time.
Common tools sleep technologists use include:
- Positive airway pressure devices and accessory equipment
- Home sleep apnea testing (HSAT) devices
- Screening devices
These are only some of the common tools used by a sleep technologist. There is an array of useful tools used to aid them in their jobs.
RST vs RPSGT? (i.e. Registered Sleep Technologist vs. Registered Polysomnographic Technologist)
A registered sleep technologist (RST) and registered polysomnographic technologist perform the same job but have different sleep credentials and distinct requirements to qualify for the credentialing exam. Here is an overview of each.
Overview of RST
There are a number of pathways to become certified as a registered sleep technologist. Each state and provider will differ in their requirements for education and certification.
You need to understand the regulations outlined by state governing boards, practice/licensure acts and local insurance and Medicare providers. This information is critical for those entering the field in states with licensure for sleep technologists. Make sure the credential you are seeking meets the requirements for practice in your state.
The American Board of Sleep Medicine (ABSM) oversees the RST credentialing exam, which assesses the day-to-day professional responsibilities and relevant practice of sleep technology in a sleep center setting. The Registered Sleep Technologist (RST) is an education based credential that gauges learning achieved through Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) education programs.
Overview of RPSGT
The Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT) provides the RPSGT credential as well as the Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT) credential, which gauge the competence of the practitioner performing polysomnography, associated therapeutic interventions, and basic education and treatment compliance.
Certified Polysomnographic Technician (CPSGT)
This is an entry-level certification you earn when you're new to the sleep field. It enables you to work and gain clinical experience before you take your RPSGT exam. However, you have to earn your RPSGT credential within 3 years, or you'll lose the CPSGT designation.
Credentialing standards are set by BRPT for the CPSGT certificate, and the BRPT develops, maintains and administers the CPSGT exam for polysomnographic technicians. This certificate program demonstrates your commitment to testing your competency early in your sleep technologist career. Being committed early on and continuing your education are both essential in improving the level of your professionalism in this career choice.
Three Pathways to CPSGT
There are three pathways to CPSGT which include:
- Pathway One: Clinical Experience - In this pathway, you are to self-study the STAR (Student Transition Activities Record) program and have 416 hours of clinical time
- Pathway Two: CoARC/CAAHEP student - You've already graduated or will graduate within 2 months
- Pathway Three: Focused Training - You've already taken the Focused STAR program including clinical time and lecture
Registered Sleep Technologist (RST)
To be eligible for the RST exam, there are four pathways which all require a minimum education level of high school graduation and basic cardiac life support (BCLS).
The four pathways to RST include:
- Pathway One: CoARC or CAAHEP graduate polysomnography education program.
- Pathway Two: You have a current RPSGT credential.
- Pathway Three: You have a CPSGT credential (or A-STEP Introductory Program) and Self-Study Modules. You also have six months to three years of AASM accredited sleep center experience, a minimum of 20 CPAP titrations, independent recording of 50 PSGs, 1 MSLT and an 85 percent score or higher on a scoring proficiency exam or documentation that you reached the minimum two month ISR standard.
- Pathway Four: You have the minimum AASM accredited sleep center experience mentioned above and another eligible health professional credential.
Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT)
There are five pathways to become eligible for the RPSGT exam with all of them requiring a minimum education high school graduation level, BCLS and you've completed all listed requirements within 3 years.
The five pathways to RPSGT that the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists defines to become eligible for the RPSGT certification include:
- Pathway One: Clinical Experience - You have a high school minimum education level and have taken the STAR self-study education program. You have the 1,638 minimum hours of relevant clinical experience within the 3-year period before the exam and you hold the BCLS certification or one equivalent to it.
- Pathway Two: Healthcare Credential - You have the 546 minimum hours of relevant clinical experience within the 3-year period before the exam. You hold a BRPT accepted allied health credential and the BCLS certification or equivalent.
- Pathway Three: CoARC/CAAHEP Graduate - You've graduated from a polysomnography education program accredited by the CAAHEP or the CoARC.
- Pathway Four: Focused Training - You have 819 hours of field-related experience and have completed the STAR self-study or STAR focused 2 program, or both within 3 years before your exam. You have the required clinical experience within the 3-year period before the exam and BCLS certification or equivalent. You're also a high school graduate.
- Pathway Five: International Option (for individuals outside the United States) - You have a degree in medicine/science or a related discipline with an extensive component of physiology/human anatomy curriculum. You have the required 545 hours of clinical experience within the 3-year period for the exam and documentation of BCLS certification or equivalent. You also have proof of residency outside the U.S.
Certification of Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH)
This exam is for healthcare educators or providers who work directly with patients, practitioners, and families to manage and coordinate patient care, educate the community and patients, improve outcomes and support how important good sleep is. You must meet the Standards of Conduct set by the BRPT.
The two pathways to CCSH include:
- Pathway One: Clinical Experience - You must have 1,000 minimum hours of clinical sleep health cumulative experience that includes counseling, education, coordination and management of patient care and outcomes. You must hold a Bachelor's degree and a current BLS certification or international equivalent for healthcare workers.
You're required to provide clinical experience verification on the application. A clinical manager, CCSH specialist or sleep medicine practitioner must validate and approve your clinical experience. You must provide proof of education in a diploma, official transcript or certificate. Only the highest education level achieved is required.
- Pathway Two: Healthcare Credential - You must have a license listed in the CCSH List of Approved Credentials or a current healthcare credential. International equivalents are approved which includes post/tertiary secondary qualification or education. You must have an Associate's degree or higher and hold a BLS certification for international equivalent or healthcare workers.
You are required to provide proof of a current CCSH Pathway two eligible license or credential or an international equivalent. You also need evidence of education documented by a diploma, official transcript, certificate or letter and the highest level of education achieved, and a current BLS certification.
Maintaining your Certification(s)
Once you obtain certification, there are additional requirements you must meet in order to maintain your certification. Every five years, you're required to recertify to maintain your credential. You can recertify by either retaking and passing the credentialing exam, or by accumulating 50 approved Continuing Education Credits (CECs) within your 5-year credential period.
There are several ways to earn the CECs you need to maintain your certification. CECs allow sleep technologists to both maintain their credential and stay current with trends and best practices in this rapidly evolving industry.
Many sleep medicine conferences and workshops offer CECs for attending, and it's a great opportunity to network with fellow industry professionals. You can also purchase CECs online, which typically come in the form of an online educational webinar. AAST has an online Learning Center that offers a variety of CEC resources to get you started. Lastly, by becoming a member of an Association like AAST, you can access free CECs (up to 32 a year!), in addition to other exclusive member benefits.
- In order to become a sleep technologist, you must obtain very specific credentials
- There are several pathways to becoming certified as a sleep technologist
- Each certification has its own level of difficulty, and different eligibility requirements
- After earning your certification, you must meet ongoing requirements in order to maintain your credential
Want to learn more information about Sleep Technology, CECs, or credentials? Browse the AAST Learning Center to gain insight on this career field.