What skills do you need to be a successful sleep technician? The first and most important skill is to have people skills. You will not only be working with patients to set up for the test but you may also be working with other people. You have to have a sense of independence because you may be working alone on some nights and be responsible for your patients and for clinical decisions during your shift. You have to have a basic technical ability. Much of what you will be doing has a great deal to do with understanding both electrical theory and anatomy and physiology. The last skill you will need is the ability to work night shift. Most of the jobs are night shift and are 7pm to 7 am or 8pm to 6am. No matter which type of shift you work learning how to deal with the change is schedule is a large part of preparing for the field.
Where do I get education to become a sleep technician? There are a great many ways to enter the field. There are still many opportunities for on the job training in states that do not have licensing laws that prevent it. This is a good choice of the facility has a strong training program. There are also short programs called A-STEP classes these last 40 hours and will require some classroom work as well as some clinical and lab time. These classes will help to prepare you not just to work in the field but as a first step toward getting your accreditation. You can also find college programs being developed throughout the country. Some programs are at private college with an Associate’s degree in Neurodiagnostics and some are add on certificates to programs such as Respiratory Therapy.
Where do I find employment opportunities? There are jobs in the field of sleep throughout the country. You may be working in one of three types of facility, hospital based labs, doctor practice labs or independent diagnostic testing facilities. All of these facilities have their benefits and their drawbacks. The best thing you can do is explore your opportunities as they become available.
Will there be any required testing or licensing as a technician? This is a very young profession and as such licensing is just starting to happen. You will check your state to find out if you will need a license to work. You will also need to consider getting your sleep credentials as states that are licensed require them. Even if you are not in a state that requires credentials you should get them because it will allow you to be eligible for more jobs and to be able to move up in the field after you have some experience. There are currently three different groups offering credentials. The NBRC, National Board of Respiratory Therapists, is the testing company for respiratory therapist and offers a specialty test for sleep technicians. The BRPT, Board of Registered Polysomnographers, is the board that gives two tests in sleep; an entry level certification test that you can take once you completed half of the online A-STEP courses and have three months of experience in sleep and the Registry exam which has different rules depending on how you entered the field. The RPSGT credential is considered the gold standard of testing currently. The final group to offer testing is the ABSM, American Board of Sleep Medicine. They will be offering a new test starting in the fall of 2011. This test was written by the physicians who are in the field of sleep. No matter which test you take credentials are a necessity if you want to advance in this field.
What does the future of sleep technology look like? The hardest question to answer is what does the future hold. There has been the introduction of many new technologies over the past ten years. These have allowed for easier testing of patients. There is also the fact that the public is just now getting educated on the issue of sleep and sleep disorders. A majority of people suffering from sleep disorders still have not been treated. This leaves the future need for sleep testing open and growing.
When looking at new career fields it is always good to find a career that will match your personality and lifestyle. Although this field may have a great deal growth potential you will not be happy unless you fit into the demands of the job. Take your time, do some research and visit a sleep lab before you make any decisions.