Like many others in these trying economic times, I found myself recently out of a job. I was completely taken by surprise, as I had performed exceptionally well in my position, and I thought that sleep medicine was fairly recession proof. Luckily, quality sleep technologists are still in high demand in many areas of the country, and although many health care companies are making themselves “leaner,” they still have to employ properly trained professionals to do the job.

As I began my job search, I quickly noticed that not all sleep technologist jobs are alike. It became apparent that many technologists might be duped into accepting positions based solely on pay, or simply say “yes” to the first offer that comes along. Unfortunately, this can be a disaster, leading to unhappiness, poor work performance, and ultimately a quick jump to a different employer. It is very important that one does the necessary homework before accepting a position in sleep medicine. The company is not simply hiring you; they are becoming a part of your professional career, something that you can find yourself proud of for many years to come—or that can haunt your career forever.

LEADERSHIP CHECK

Competitive pay aside, what should one look for in a good sleep professional position? First, take a look at the top—the leadership. Most people do not quit their jobs, they leave the persons leading them. Find out the answers to these questions: Who is the manager or director? Is that person a Registered Polysomnographic Technologist? If not, does that person have the necessary training to lead a sleep center team? How does the department report up? Is it under respiratory therapy? Neurology? Or is it its own entity? Believe it or not, the answers to these questions are extremely important.

My research revealed a group of hospitals that had turned the sleep center leadership over to physical therapy (historically, most sleep centers evolved from neurology departments or respiratory departments). The director had no sleep training at all. How long do you think sleep technologists will last in such an environment? Do you think that a hospital that “dumps” its sleep program off to an unqualified leader honestly has a stake in how the center will perform? Turnover will skyrocket, and this would definitely not be a place to expect a long-term career.

Why is leadership so important? If the director is not aware of all aspects of the sleep center, I can guarantee you that purchasing appropriate equipment, hiring the necessary, proper staff, and obtaining much needed supplies will be a constant battle. Many sleep centers that have turned leadership over to nonsleep professionals have failed. You expect the owner of a restaurant to know a little something about food; it is no different in health care, especially in sleep medicine.

COMMITMENT TO QUALITY

Second, I would recommend taking a close look at your potential employer’s dedication to quality. Is the center accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and/or The Joint Commission? If not, does the facility have plans to obtain accreditation in the near future? Is the medical director board certified in sleep medicine? Again, if the facility has no interest in obtaining AASM accreditation, or if the physician is not properly trained, do you really want to work there?

INVESTING IN EDUCATION

Finally, when looking for a permanent position, I would recommend researching the facility’s dedication regarding education. Despite these trying economic times, most sleep centers of excellence are still providing some form of education budget for their teams. This is a great sign of true commitment. If your potential employer provides no education opportunities, no travel reimbursement, or even time off for regional or national meetings, I would seriously reconsider accepting a position with them.

This is your career, and it should be your goal to provide excellent patient care, every night, every patient, every time. Do not waste your talent on shoddy facilities that do not concern themselves with proper leadership, accreditation, education, and training. Otherwise, you will find yourself miserable and job hunting much sooner than you would like.


T. “Massey” Arrington, RPSGT, MBA, is technical director and manager of DeKalb Medical Sleep Disorders Center. The author can be reached at [email protected]