How to Become a Polysomnographic Technologist (With Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated January 28, 2023

Published May 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Medical professionals who work with patients having sleeping disorders are polysomnographic technologists. This profession requires specialized educational qualifications and training, along with some unique hard and soft skills. By knowing more about the role of polysomnographic technologists, you can discover whether this is the right choice for your career. In this article, we discuss how to become a polysomnographic technologist, learn about the required skills for this job, and answer some frequently asked questions about the profession.

What is a polysomnographic technologist?

Polysomnographic technologists conduct multi-parametric tests to help diagnose sleep-related disorders and support patients during sleep studies. They induct patients, answer questions, and explain the test procedures to them. Once the patients are asleep with sensors recording their biological activities, polysomnographic technologists monitor them during the study to note any movement, patterns, disturbances, or other sleep irregularities. Usually, they also help doctors and other physicians diagnose the issue based on the test result analysis.

Polysomnographic technologists may also collaborate with other medical professionals to develop an overall understanding of patient conditions. This collaboration also helps them develop comprehensive care plans for patients.

Related: What Does a Polysomnographic Technologist Do at Work?

How to become a polysomnographic technologist

Here's a guide to help you learn how to become a polysomnographic technologist:

1. Finish your education

Polysomnographic technologists can complete a three-year college or university program in specializations like respiratory therapy. These programs provide candidates with the practical skills required to excel in their positions. By obtaining these degrees, students learn how to manage clients who have medical problems resulting from sleeping disorders. Some students complete internships that provide them with clinical experience to help them obtain jobs as polysomnographic technologists.

2. Obtain basic life support (BSL) certification

Polysomnographic technologists require a basic life support certification that provides essential knowledge for healthcare professionals. This certification provides you with information that helps you identify symptoms of cardiac arrest. You can learn how to respond quickly in such situations and perform the life-saving CPR technique.

3. Complete licensing procedures

Polysomnographic technologists require licensing to become a registered technical with the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. These licenses provide international credentials that enable professionals to work credibly in different institutions and locations. To obtain this certification, professionals require completing their educational degree and clinical experience. They also require a basic life support (BLS) certification.

Career options for polysomnographic technologists

Here's a list of career options for polysomnographic technologists:

1. Perfusionist

National average salary: $48.03 per hour

Primary duties: Clinical perfusionists support patients who undergo cardiac surgeries and other cardio-respiratory procedures. These professionals also help physicians with the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Clinical perfusionists generally assist with regulating oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood, along with the use of machines to maintain blood flow through tissues in the body during surgeries. They monitor the overall circulation of blood during procedures and other vital parameters. Polysomnographic technologists typically collaborate with clinical perfusionists when patients require monitoring their cardiac conditions during operations.

2. Respiratory therapists

National average salary: $34.18 per hour

Primary duties: Respiratory therapists conduct assessments and diagnostic procedures to help determine the requirements of their patients, along with potential treatments. These professionals also make recommendations for the treatment of patients, along with suggestions for their respiratory care. When necessary, they modify existing treatment and care plans depending on their patients' progress. Respiratory therapists also consider the effectiveness of treatments when adjusting care plans. They document their patients' history and educate them about respiratory conditions.

Related: Top 15 Careers in Therapy (With Duties, Salaries, and FAQs)

3. Cardiopulmonary technologist

National average salary: $75,880 per year

Primary duties: Cardiopulmonary technologists, otherwise called cardiovascular technologists, conduct diagnostic procedures like ambulatory monitoring, along with performing ECGs and installing pacemakers. These professionals conduct these diagnostic tests to assess their patients' cardiovascular health. They also detect diseases and illnesses among patients and discover potential disorders. These professionals use defibrillators in case of emergency. They typically work with polysomnographic technologists to observe cardiac health during a patient's sleep cycle and determine whether they experience sleeping disorders because of cardiac conditions.

Skills required to be a polysomnographic technologist

Here's a list of skills necessary to be a polysomnographic technologist:

Attention to detail

Polysomnographic technologists can benefit from having strong attention to detail because they determine whether patients are eligible for tests by reviewing data and paying attention to patient symptoms. They use this assessment to help determine whether patients are uncomfortable during tests and record notes about the patient's overall sleep health. These professionals also have to collaborate with other healthcare professionals to determine whether their sleeping disorders result from other health conditions.

Polysomnographic technologists also use focus and accuracy while maintaining patient records and observing behaviours in patients that contribute to sleeping disorders. They also use these skills to determine when patients experience difficulty sleeping during studies. Throughout studies and tests, polysomnographic technologists record the events of the study through comprehensive note-taking, which may also require attention to detail.

Related: Attention to Detail Interview Questions and Their Answers

Empathy and compassion

Polysomnographic technologists use empathy and compassion to communicate with their patients and consider their patients' situations and perspectives. These professionals recognize that their patients are experiencing complex sleeping conditions that can result in significant challenges and lower life quality. This is because patients may experience fatigue, cognitive issues, and impaired judgment when experiencing sleeping disorders. Polysomnographic technologists understand the reasons behind their sleeping disorders and try to help patients feel understood. Their goal is to increase patient comfort while they study their sleeping habits.

Technical skills

Polysomnographic technologists use technical knowledge and expertise to use the equipment required for polysomnographic tests. These professionals also use specialized equipment when assessing the vitals of their patients and determining the causes of sleeping disorders. They generally review a patient's airflow, along with their electric potentials and their skeletal muscle activity. Polysomnographic technologists also typically maintain the standards and protocols for using sensors and other standard devices.

Administrative skills

Polysomnographic technologists can benefit from having strong administrative skills because they typically record their research observations. They also take notes that reflect the progress patients make during their studies. Administrative tasks help them with the overall organization of paperwork, along with the ability to record information about patients while maintaining confidentiality. These skills can also help them coordinate patient chart histories and medication records between departments and doctors.

Communication skills

Polysomnographic technologists use communication skills to communicate with their patients about sleeping disorders and provide them with clear guidelines regarding their treatment and care plans. These professionals also use communication skills to regularly interact with their colleagues, supervisors, and other specialized medical professionals. Polysomnographic technologists also provide their patients with clear steps regarding the sleep study and subsequent actions to ease discomfort and relax them before the study, which requires interpersonal and communication skills.

Related: 7 Ways to Communicate Effectively (Plus Benefits and Tips)

Frequently asked questions about polysomnographic technologists

Here are answers to some common questions about polysomnographic technologists:

Is polysomnographic technology a demanding job?

This career requires professionals to stand for extended periods, which may require physical endurance. These studies may require the review of patient symptoms throughout the day and night, resulting in irregular work hours. Since most of these studies may occur at night, they might have to work night shifts. Occasionally, polysomnographic technologists may have to lift heavy equipment and medical devices.

What's the work environment of polysomnographic technologists?

The work environment for polysomnographic technologists varies depending on the place of employment. Many technologists work in centres and research institutions, along with educational institutions. Throughout their work shifts, these professionals can experience exposure to chemical vapours that result from disinfection and cleaning. The work environment typically requires coordinating with multiple healthcare professionals and high physical endurance and strength to accomplish daily responsibilities.

What's the difference between a polysomnographic technologist and a sleep therapist?

Sleep therapists differ from polysomnographic technologists as they focus on providing aid to those experiencing sleeping difficulties. In comparison, polysomnographic technologists specialize in research and studies that determine the causes of sleeping disorders. Sleep therapists review conditions like insomnia and narcolepsy and provide patients with a comprehensive care plan that considers their patients' mental health, along with their physical health. They usually create these plans on the basis of the tests and analyses done by polysomnographic technologists.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries and the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate's experience, academic background, and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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