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A Day in the Life of a Polysomnographic Technologist

Apr 08, 2010

A polysomnographic technologist is someone who is specially trained to perform polysomnogram tests on patients who are suspected of having a sleeping disorder. As a polysomnographic technologist, usually your job will involve collecting sleep data using a PSG, or polysomnogram. You will help to prepare each patient for their polysomnogram, monitor the patient while they are sleeping, and help to interpret the results so the patient can potentially resolve their sleep disorder. Since you are monitoring someone while they are sleeping this job will entail many long nights.

At the beginning of your day (or night) you will arrive at your office, which may be part of a larger clinic or hospital, or it may be a separate building. Generally the office may consist of one room with a monitoring system for each patient, surrounded by patient rooms. This lets you monitor all of your patients and keep an eye on them simultaneously. For larger clinics you may have an assistant or two to keep things running smoothly.

In the early evening you and your team will meet with your patients individually. You discuss their particular sleep issues, and inform them of how the evening will play out. Usually you will explain each type of monitoring device they will have on them: respiratory, cardiac, brain activity, etc. Some people may be nervous about the fact that they will have electrodes on them – it will be your job to reassure them that there is no risk involved.

After that you will show the patient to their room and help them get settled. You or an assistant will then proceed in attaching the different electrodes to the patient, and ensure that each monitor is capturing information properly. The patient will then retire for the night and you will return to the office or monitoring station to keep an eye on them while they sleep.

Overnight you will monitor each patient and view the results of their sleep data. Some patients may have severe sleep apnea – where they stop breathing while they sleep and may require closer evaluation. In the morning you will help wake the patient and remove their sensors, and then collect all the sleep data so that a physician can make a diagnosis on the type of sleep disorder they may be having. The physician will then help the patient resolve their sleep disorder using approved methods. Depending on the type of clinic you work in you may or may not be involved with the diagnosis and treatment.

Those with significant experience or education as a polysomnographic technologist may work the day shift at a sleep clinic instead of at night. These technologists do not watch people sleep; instead they work with the more technical aspects of collating data, preparing reports, and ensuring that all the monitoring machines are properly calibrated. The daytime polysomnographic technologists will work more closely with physicians to identify sleep patterns and determine methods of care.

A career as a polysomnographic technologist can be fun, challenging, and rewarding. Since many people have difficulty sleeping there is always a demand for these types of professionals, and with an average salary of from $38,000 to $43,000 per year, it is definitely a career worth considering.

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