I would just like to start out this month’s blog post by telling everyone just how proud I am to be a Sleep Technologist! When I run into Trader Joe’s on my way home from work, I always proudly correct the cashier, “No, I’m not a nurse, I am a sleep tech,” even though I know this is going to open myself up to many more questions. To me, sleep has never been just a job but a career to invest in. Which is why I found myself joining organizations like California Sleep Society and the American Academy of Sleep Technologists, teaching at Orange Coast College’s Polysomnography program, and running for two terms on the board of directors of the California Sleep Society. I want to do my part to ensure the integrity of our Sleep Medicine field.

At the 2018 California Sleep Society Conference in San Diego, Patrick Moday with special guest Dr. Dement gave a funny but really important talk reminding us all of the events leading up to the birth of the California Sleep Society in 2007. During that time, I was a Lead Tech at Long Beach Memorial’s sleep disorder center. We had a group of amazing RPSGTs at the hospital. We then received a letter from the California Hospital Association requiring nurses to run the overnight sleep studies. This was followed by the equally shocking news from the Respiratory Care Board threatening large fines to anyone performing studies without an RT license.

Long Beach Memorial decided to bring in RN’s to run studies, except they didn’t know how to run sleep studies. I saw nurses napping in break rooms while an RPSGT would hookup, titrate and perform all the necessary patient care. Who was standing up for the sleep technologist?

The answer is the California Sleep Society. I’ll spare you the details of the long back and forth with lobbyists, legislators, and even the Governor. Looking back, I remember questioning if I would have a job in the long term. I even considered going back to school for respiratory therapy. Then it was announced, the bill passed and sleep technologists were granted licensure under the Medical Board of California.

I know at times I grumble about having to pay $150 to the BRPT and $150 to the Medical Board of CA just to be able to work, but I think it’s important for all of us to remember the purpose of these fees; to protect our jobs and patients. Holding an RPSGT through the BRPT shows our employers we have the knowledge to do the work they are hiring us to do. Holding a license through the Medical Board of California provides accountability of our ethical actions and offers our patients a mechanism of grievance reporting and piece of mind that they are safe to receive care from us. In a recent conversation with a hiring manager, I asked if they would ever hire a nurse who didn’t attend nursing school or didn’t hold a nursing license. Of course, the answer was NO. So should it be okay to hire a sleep tech without either?

Who in California is policing the licensure? Who is going to send out letters like those I received from the California Hospital Association and Respiratory Care Board? Right now, we, the sleep professionals, need to be doing our own policing because our field is equally as important as nursing and respiratory. It is our responsibility to maintain the integrity and ethical practices.

Here’s my challenge for all sleep professional who are reading this: if you apply for a job and they don’t require you to have a Medical Board of California license, inform your hiring manager or human resources department. If they don’t change their requirements… REPORT THEM! If you are working alongside a tech who is not licensed, inform them and if they don’t obtain one… REPORT THEM. It sounds harsh but this is how we avoid having another crisis that will threaten to take jobs away from sleep techs and hand them over to another field with professionals who are willing to maintain and police their state licensure.

To report a person or facility to the Medical Board of CA visit their website http://www.mbc.ca.gov/ and click the “file a complaint” link on their homepage. To be more involved you can volunteer for a California Sleep Society committee!

Thank you everyone!

Alana Sherrill, BA, CCSH, RPSGT