Evolution of the Sleep Professional

By Andrea Ramberg

Evolution, by any stretch of the imagination, can be a hard concept to grasp. It involves acknowledging that what is happening at the moment might not be the best thing to bring into the future, but trusting that the unknown is going to lead you to where you should be. How we take care of our patients needs to adapt to the changing world of healthcare, with reimbursements fluctuating and insurance payors creating an uncertain future. The way in which we have always done things needs to adapt to the new healthcare environment. The sleep field has evolved tremendously over the years, and the role as a sleep professional continues to evolve within that sleep realm.

I have seen such evolution occur in my career. I started as a Polysomnographic Technologist performing sleep studies at night, and over the course of the next 7 years was trained in scoring, DME, physician visits, and day to day operations. Through the education from phenomenal teachers and mentors I was taught the importance of a well-rounded approach to patient care and critical thinking skills. It was from those skills that my new role was born as a Sleep Health Navigator, screening inpatients at multiple hospital locations for sleep disordered breathing and creating the proper care plan post discharge. The role involves identifying patients who are at risk for sleep disordered breathing, assessing and educating them regarding how it could be exacerbating their comorbid conditions, and working with the medical staff and physicians to get them scheduled for a sleep study. It also involves educating the staff and doctors of the importance of sleep and how either an undiagnosed or non-compliant patient could be affecting readmissions or the multiple comorbid conditions they are presenting with. This role requires the proficiency in pathophysiology, epidemiology and clinical guidelines for sleep disorders and treatment options. One must be competent in clinical assessment using standardized diagnostic tools and the ability to work within multiple electronic medical record programs. It is also important to be able to collect, analyze and track the data to draw out trends and facilitate the position. Education and management of patients with sleep disorders requires understanding of the multifaceted disease processes.

The type of individual capable of all the above characteristics often demonstrates a higher education level. The professional world in general now expects a higher degree to satisfy certain criteria in which they are measured. The sleep field is no different as we find ourselves in a world shifting from episodic care to outcomes based medicine that relies on care coordination. The Certification in Clinical Sleep Health (CCSH) exemplifies how the field has evolved. The CCSH examination is an advanced-level examination for healthcare providers and educators who work directly with sleep medicine patients, families, and practitioners to coordinate and manage patient care, improve outcomes, educate patients and the community, and advocate for the importance of sleep. This advanced level requires the skillset to think critically about case management and the bigger picture of what the patient needs. The evolution of the sleep professional includes obtaining a higher education and fulfilling the role of an educator in spaces we had never thought about before. Taking care of the sleep needs of the world involves inhabiting space in new, exciting areas. In order to do that we must grow outside our comfort zones and push ourselves to new heights. Thinking outside the box and rising to the next level is exactly what it takes to evolve and thrive as a sleep professional in our ever-changing world. What is keeping you from taking your career to the next level?

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