What Is a Polysomnographic Technologist?

Polysomnographic technologists conduct sleep tests to help diagnose sleep abnormalities. Read on for information about job duties and professional requirements. Schools offering Allied Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Polysomnographic Technologist Job Description

Polysomnographic technologists study patients' sleeping patterns and assist sleep physicians in diagnosing and treating sleep disorders, like sleep apnea and narcolepsy. They obtain patients' medical histories, determine which sleep tests are necessary, and explain sleep study procedures.

Before performing a sleep test, you calibrate recording equipment and apply electrodes to your patient's skin. You observe your patient's sleep habits from another room, by watching live video and studying recordings of eye movement, brain waves, and other physical phenomena. Throughout the sleep session, you take detailed notes on your observations. You must be ready to act in case of a medical emergency; current CPR certification is a job requirement.

After the sleep observation test concludes (when your patient awakes), the analysis portion begins. You review the recordings along with your notes and prepare a report of sleep/wake cycles and events that occurred during sleep. A sleep physician will use your report to determine diagnosis and treatment.

Important Facts About This Occupation

Key Skills Sleep evaluation, patient care and assessment, equipment sterilization
Similar Careers Sleep Trainee, Sleep Care Manager, Sleep Technician
Professional Licensure To maintain the RST and RPSGT credentials, recertification is necessary
Job Outlook (2012-2022) 22% growth

Source: United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Types of Sleep Tests

The multiple sleep latency test measures level of sleepiness during the day, while the maintenance of wakefulness test measures one's ability to combat sleepiness. The parasomnia test examines odd sleep behaviors, and the positive airway pressure test determines what pressure level is needed to prevent a patient's airway from collapsing during sleep.

Education and Registration Requirements

The majority of sleep centers request polysomnographic technologists to be registered. This involves completing a polysomnographic technology program at the certificate or associate's degree level. The core courses are typically the same at both levels, but the associate's degree program also includes general education, such as coursework in life and physical sciences, computer science, and math. Discipline-specific curriculum includes sleep physiology, pathology of sleep disorders, clinical polysomnography procedures, and sleep scoring. After you finish your program, you're eligible to take the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists (BRPT) examination and earn the credential of Registered Polysomnographic Technologist (RPSGT).

Career Information

Most polysomnographic technologists work at specialty sleep disorder clinics or hospitals with sleep disorder departments. Most shifts occur throughout the night, though scoring work and certain tests can be done during the day; senior polysomnographic technologists typically get the day shifts. Though national statistics regarding employment aren't available, polysomnography programs report that RPSGTs are in demand. According to PayScale.com, in September 2015, the majority of polysomnographic technologists earned between $31,280 and $64,209 yearly, and the median salary was $41,131.

Though you'll likely work in a sleep lab conducting sleep tests, you may eventually become involved in research, community outreach projects, or educational initiatives. Someone with a background in this field may also turn to marketing and sales of sleep products.

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