Spotlight On A CCSH Credential Holder
Elizabeth Blaylock, RPSGT, RST, CCSH
Certified Clinical Sleep Health Educator
Memphis Lung Physicians Foundation
Memphis, TN & Southaven, MS
“It’s my passion to partner with patients to help educate them to make better choices for their sleep health and for better outcomes.”
Sleep… I never really gave it much thought only that I never seemed to get enough of it. I knew nothing about sleep or the importance of sleep. That was 18 years ago when I had just entered the healthcare field; I’ve spent 15 of those years in sleep.
I was a stay at home mom for a number of years until I went back to work in 1998. I worked in surgery at Baptist Hospital for a few years and loved learning new things. I was able to work in different departments and I enjoyed the variety. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn. I couldn’t get enough.
One day while passing the sleep lab in our hospital, I asked some of their employees, “What happens in a sleep lab?” They began to tell me all the neat things that happen in a sleep lab and I was in awe. I instantly wanted to know more. They were looking to hire a new sleep tech and I was offered a job on the spot -- I was so excited! The year was 2000. Back then, you could be hired as a sleep tech without any knowledge of sleep or for that matter any experience in healthcare. To become a sleep tech all you had to be was a willing employee. And there began my passion for sleep.
The first night on the job I was taught the international 10-20 hook-up by a very good trainer. I learned quickly and the second patient was all mine to hookup. At the time, I didn’t understand all the terminology: split, hypopneas, periodic limb movements and REM sleep. By the end of week one I was hooking up two patients a night on my own. But I had a lot to learn. I asked a lot of questions but often felt the answers were insufficient.
Eventually, I decided to take the online Polysomnography Course through the California College of Health Sciences. It was a self-paced 18-month course. I completed it in April of 2003 and earned a certification of completion in Polysomnography. I learned so much and again, the more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
I started experimenting on myself and my husband. My husband showed mild sleep apnea and severe PLMS on his first study. He visited the sleep lab and was prescribed a BiPAP machine and the BiPAP and medication for his periodic limb movements, allowed him to get the rest he needed.
As for me, I wanted to better understand, from a patient’s perspective, what a sleep study entailed. My sleep study showed no apnea, but it was a shortened 4-hour study without much REM sleep and no supine time. While I had minor symptoms, I was curious to try APAP therapy. Once I got the hang of it and made some adjustments I no longer woke up with headaches or sore feet. I figured if I could wear PAP, I could help my patients understand that it can be successful with help and encouragement. In June 2003 I took the RPSGT exam and passed!
From there, I continued learning and went on to manage several sleep centers. I found a lack of education and understanding of sleep patients and what their needs were. In my lab, we began to put an enormous emphasis on educating our patients from the first phone call to the follow up and after care. We saw great outcomes with better PAP compliance than I have ever experienced. Our compliance rate was 88-95% and our patients were experiencing a high quality of life they hadn’t known before. What a great feeling!
When the opportunity for the Clinical Sleep Educator course was offered in May 2013 in Nashville, TN I jumped at the chance to attend and learn even more. It was a great experience. The CSE Tool Kit was 736 pages of excellent education and would keep me busy for a long time. I couldn’t wait to come home and apply the things I learned with my patients. I became more excited about the fact that I could make an even bigger difference in patients’ lives by working one on one with them. I wanted to help them understand that they are a big part of their health and that they could have a say in the choices they make for better outcomes.
When I learned more about the Certification in Clinical Sleep Health I was excited to deepen my knowledge so I studied for and sat for the exam. I was delighted to earn the CCSH credential and put it to good use. I am now working with the Memphis Lung Physicians Foundation with some of the finest physicians around. We have three locations, two in Tennessee and one in Southaven, MS. We have 14 physicians and several nurse practitioners. And, we have four sleep physicians. It is truly a dream come true. I love making a positive difference in the lives of others. This specific type of work wouldn’t have been possible without the CSE course and the CCSH certification.
My passion in sleep is patient care; providing one on one support to patients and promoting treatment adherence, reducing the co-morbidities related to untreated sleep problems, and to helping patients achieve a higher quality of life. What we do truly matters.