The Science Journal of the American Association for Respiratory Care

1996 OPEN FORUM Abstracts

Challenges in Educating Sleep Medicine and Technology Practitioners

Mark Brayford, RPSGT Wednesday, November 6, 1996

With the medical community and the public becoming more aware of Sleep/Wake Medicine and its treatments, the field is growing. This presents a special challenge to educate the practitioners, not only the physicians and technologists, but also the clerical staff who are regularly the first person the patient talks to.

The Number of sleep disorder diagnoses is close to 80 (according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders) and this does not include the number of "proposed" diagnoses. Because many patients can have more than one disorder at the same time, all staff at the sleep/wake center must be aware of the different sleep disorders.

Due to the recent direction of trying to make medicine more efficient, most patients referred to the sleep/wake center, won't see a board certified sleep specialist prior to testing. This puts an additional burden on the interpreting physician as they must make a diagnosis strictly on the information gathered by the clerical staff and the technician. The physician has to be proficient at reading sleep recordings to make the proper diagnosis and confirming effectiveness of treatment.

The clerical staff must be knowledgeable enough to understand patient testing orders from a variety of referring physicians. They must know the different types of sleep testing and their schedulability in relation to each other. They must have a knowledge base broad enough to answer patient questions regarding different sleep disorders and how they are tested.

Sleep technicians must have a working knowledge of all sleep disorders; how they effect the patient, how they are tested for and how they are treated. The technician must be competent enough to know when to change the type of testing performed if the patient presents differently than the ordered testing describes.

The technician also has the additional job of being the only person from the sleep/wake center the patient usually sees. From high quality patient relations to the best patient care practices; the sleep technician must be able to handle all the patient's needs, questions and situations.

Patient education also is the responsibility of the sleep/wake center. Education can range from community education about sleep disorders medicine in general to education the patient on how to use their treatment the most effectively. Many times, the education becomes part of the duties of the sleep technologist.

With many patients, follow-up is also performed by the sleep/wake center. This becomes crucial with treatment for sleep apnea syndrome. Patient compliance with nasal CPAP is directly related to how well the patient is followed after the titration study. Support groups for the various sleep disorders are also usually conducted by sleep/wake center personnel.

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