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A polysomnography technologist works with individuals who have diagnosed or suspected sleep disorders. Primarily, this type of technician helps to arrange sleep studies, including preparing a patient for the study and monitoring the diagnostic machinery during the test. These professionals are also responsible for the well-being of their patients throughout the study.
Typically, a polysomnography is the main diagnostic tool of any sleep study. The results of this type of study generally consist of a series of readings from over 20 electrodes placed on the scalp, face, and limbs of the patient. Each electrode is responsible for identifying activity in the area of the brain or body to which it is attached, while the patient sleeps. It is then the responsibility of the polysomnography technologist to evaluate the results to find irregular readings that may point to the cause of a patient’s sleep issues.
Frequently, however, the job of a polysomnography technologist begins before the first electrode is attached. Although painless, the idea of trying to sleep in a strange place while attached to a bundle of wires can be unnerving to many patients. Frequently, the job of putting the patient at ease falls on the shoulders of the technician. A reassuring tone and good bedside manner is imperative.
In addition to monitoring the equipment, a polysomnography technologist is also responsible for the care of the patient during the sleep study. It is not uncommon for a sleep study to discover serious medical conditions. Irregular heartbeats and cessation of breathing, for example, are complications from certain sleep disorders that must be treated immediately. Rarely, patients have entered cardiac arrest during the course of a sleep study. As such, sleep study technicians are generally required to have CPR certification.
The responsibilities of the polysomnography technologist do not end after the sleep study is over. A technician usually act as a liaison between the patient and his or her primary physician. Commonly, the technician is also instrumental in developing a treatment plan, including demonstrating prescribed equipment and providing educational materials for the patient.
As there are very few existing educational programs that teach polysomnography exclusively, technicians are generally graduates of electroneurodiagnostic, nursing, or respiratory therapy programs. Additional on-the-job training and continuing education are usually required for certification as a polysomnography technician. Since 2011, accreditation in the United States has been available through the American Association of Sleep Technologists and the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists.