Polysomnographer Video: Becoming a Polysomnographic Technician
Polysomnographer Video: Becoming a Polysomnographic Technician Transcript
Are you a night owl looking for a healthcare career? A polysomnographic technician, also known as a sleep technologist, often works at night, observing patients as they undergo a polysomnograph. These examinations help doctors diagnose disorders like sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome. They make use of EEG and ECT technologies to measure and record respiration, heart rate and brain wave activity. Polysomnograms, the reports and data generated by a sleep study, can be used by physicians to make an informed diagnosis and develop an effective course of treatment.
Sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy are three of the many sleep disorders that can disrupt a patient's personal, social and professional lives. Polysomnographers, also known as polysomnographic technicians, perform sleep studies on patients in order to help doctors diagnose sleep disorders. A sleep study is a battery of diagnostic exams that test the body's reaction to sleep. While some professionals can be trained on the job, most polysomnographers are required to earn an associate's degree. Professional certification is voluntary.
Job Duties and Skills
If a physician suspects that a patient is suffering from a sleep disorder, he or she will recommend a 'sleep study.' A sleep study is a series of diagnostic tests that record a patient's body's reaction to sleep. Polysomnographic technicians perform sleep studies to help diagnose illnesses and provide doctors with the information they need to start treating patients.
A sleep study begins with a thorough patient history. The polysomnographer may ask questions about family history, any illnesses or other factors that may be interrupting sleep, like loud noises, stress or dietary factors. The patient is then connected to an electroencephalograph (EEG), a electrocardiograph (EKG) and other diagnostic equipment that will measure heart rate and brain activity during sleep.
Polysomnographic technicians monitor the patient for any abnormalities, including excessive body movements and labored breathing. After the study is completed, a report is prepared and given to the physician for further analysis.
In order for a sleep study to be effective, it must take place during a patient's normal sleeping hours. This often requires polysomnographers to work during the night. Sleep studies are less effective when patients are stressed. Strong communication skills are needed to set patients at ease. Sleep studies are expensive and require a major time commitment from patients. Any data that is lost or inconclusive is a major setback towards making an accurate diagnosis.
Unless you already have an associate's degree in a related healthcare field, like nursing or medical technology, an associate's degree in polysomnographic technology is required. This program includes coursework on sleep disorders, diagnosis and treatment, first aid and CPR, anatomy and physiology and medical terminology. Students will also study the computer technology and diagnostic equipment used in sleep studies. Professionals who have completed an associate's degree in a medical field may receive their training on the job.
Professional certification is not required by all employers. However, the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists does offer a certification examination that can increase career opportunities. Sleep science is still an emerging and growing field. As it continues to grow, many states are expected to consider requiring formal certification and licensing for polysomnographic technicians.
Many hospitals have 'sleep labs' that are designed to help doctors work with patients suffering from sleep disorders. These labs offer the greatest career opportunities for polysomnographers. In addition, there exist a growing number of dedicated sleep clinics featuring doctors, nurses and technicians who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related illnesses. In larger departments and treatment centers, managerial and supervisory positions are a possibility for experienced polysomnographic technicians.
With some additional training and certification, polysomnographic technicians may be able to transition into other medical fields, including EEG and MRI technology. These fields make use of technologies and skills that are familiar to polysomnographers. As their interest in medicine grows, polysomnographers may pursue opportunities in nursing and other advanced medical fields, which may require extra education and licensing.