How to Develop Sleep Technologists and Grow a Pool of Talented Staff

In this EnsoData sleep story, dive into how one sleep professional is building a pipeline of talented technologists through an AASM Accredited Sleep Technologist Education Program (A-STEP) 80-Hour Introductory Course

In sleep medicine today, many lab managers and clinical directors are navigating a serious staffing crisis. With strains from the pandemic and fewer people gaining their RPSGT credential in recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to build and retain a thriving team. Despite staffing challenges, it is still imperative to deliver excellent patient care and achieve business goals. That’s exactly what our sleep story candidate has focused on with California Sleep Solutions (CSS). She created and manages an A-STEP 80-Hour Introductory Course educational training program to provide people in her community with a pathway into the sleep field, simultaneously building a pipeline of educated, talented technologists to help staff her sleep lab. 

Flexibility in Patient Care Allows Hanson, CSS to Stand Out

When Hanson first started in sleep medicine, she was working nights, mainly helping patients with set-ups and supporting in the diagnosis of sleep apnea and the follow-up treatment that is associated with OSA. Now, she oversees multiple departments and five locations, but her focus is still on making sure patients are seen and treated. “Today, everybody knows someone that struggles with sleep apnea and uses a CPAP, so I’d say it’s very different from when I was first starting in this field. People are starting to understand the importance of sleep,” noted Hanson.

Hanson’s team supports twenty beds in five locations in the Sacramento metropolitan area. Because CSS is one of the only independent sleep facilities in the area, they see a broader range of patients, largely due to their ability to be flexible. For example, CSS supports the sleep studies of shift workers, who often need to take a sleep test during the day to accommodate their work schedule. Most shift workers who take tests will arrive at 7-8 in the morning, and while it’s a small fraction of the overall operation, it’s the perfect example of the flexibility Hanson and the CSS prioritize to provide patients with the best care.

“I must give a wholehearted shoutout to my awesome techs and admin staff,” added Hanson. “Without them we wouldn’t be able to accommodate patients as well as we can.”

In a similar fashion, this is why the CSS team has expanded their operation to five labs in the Sacramento area. “We really don’t want patients to have to drive very far to take their sleep test,” said Hanson. She highlighted a pair of reasons, the first being that most people who are on the way to a sleep test are fatigued, and when you’re tired, you don’t drive as well. “They’re obviously coming in because they’re having trouble sleeping, and we don’t want them driving too far unsafely,” added Hanson. 

Empathy, when combined with flexibility, can create an excellent environment for patient care, and the two skills are part of the reason Hanson’s grown in her career in sleep medicine. A third area where Hanson shines is in spearheading and managing an AASM-accredited education program for sleep technologists

Hanson’s Accredited Sleep Technologist Education Program (A-STEP) 80-Hour Introductory Course

For many sleep technologists, getting the right educational information is critical to a successful career. Finding the right teacher or program is crucial if you want to get hired and make a good first impression as a sleep technologist. The program that Hanson leads is recognized and accredited by the AASM, and it lays a great foundation for techs to find their way into sleep medicine. It’s the first stage in the full AASM Accredited Sleep Technologist Education Program.

An accredited sleep technologist education program (A-STEP) “equips trainees with the knowledge and skills they need to excel in the profession of sleep technology,” per the AASM. To complete A-STEP, a student must complete the 80-Hour Introductory Course, which Hanson teaches via the Northern California School of Sleep Medicine (NCS), the 80-Hour Introductory Course final exam, and the online self-study modules. 

Hanson’s 80-Hour Introductory Course contains practical and classroom training, and with the way Hanson and NCSSM have designed the material, the course gives techs a robust hands-on learning experience. Finally, when you take this course via NCSSM, you can receive the AASM Online Self-Study modules at a discount, provided you can pass the final exam. For techs looking to get into the field, A-STEP creates the perfect starting point. 

Providing Sleep Techs with a Leg Up on their Career

Over the years, Hanson’s team has also provided internships for young, promising sleep techs. Dozens of interns have moved into full time roles as sleep techs with the team. From there, techs are eligible to take the RPSGT exam after having 6 months of on site care experience, and more than a handful of her former students have gone on to earn RPSGT and even CCSH credentials after getting their introduction to sleep from Hanson’s program. 

In short, the A-STEP 80-Hour Introductory Course has been a great way to manage the ebbs and flows of the current staffing crisis, but also allows Hanson and the team to make an impact on a lot of young people’s lives. The career path is real, and we’re in desperate need of more techs across the country.

“Completing the A-STEP 80-Hour Introductory Course puts you on a road for the RPSGT exam and on a career path that has serious growth potential,” said Hanson. 

And while the program helps the CSS team provide the best care from the most educated staff, the program isn’t only limited to their staff. Hanson initially expanded the program out to other local hospitals, but in the past year, with virtual classes, the program has gone nationwide. This reach and impact that Hanson and the team are having extends far beyond their own team, to all those willing to learn a little more about providing exceptional care. If you’d like to learn more about A-STEP, check out the resources on AASM’s site and those provided by Hanson’s team.

Building Blocks to a Better Career in Sleep Medicine

Final Advice from our Sleep Story Candidate

In her work, Hanson tries to focus on what she can control: Where she can help her team be more efficient, how she can improve the patient care journey, and what else she can standardize operationally to bring down costs and improve the final patient outcomes. For sleep professionals like Hanson who are reading along, here’s her advice for you: 

“Make sure you always focus on what you can do, rather than what is stopping you.” she said. “If that’s a struggle, find out where your support is!”

She also recommended reading more. In order to stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow in her role as a director, she has delved into reading leadership books. “Leadership is not easy. It’s not for everyone. So, having the inspiration from good leaders who know that it’s not going to be perfect everyday can really help shift your mindset around,” said Hanson. One of her favorites, “Permission to Screw Up,” by Kristen Hadeed, dives into all the amazing mistakes you’re going to make along the way to success. If you’re looking for a little inspiration, give it a read! 

And if you’re interested in reading one of our other sleep stories, take a gander at our past features: 

With that, we’re going to wrap this sleep story up, and say thank you to our country-music and Nashville-loving sleep professional of the month, Sherri Hanson. It was a pleasure hearing about your sleep operation! We appreciate you taking time to connect with us.