Sleep Medicine Advice and Insights for RPSGTs from a 30+ Year Veteran of the IndustryIn this month’s educational sleep story, we head down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama during the height of football excitement, as the perennially top ranked Crimson Tide take to the gridiron. Fresh to the Alabama scene, arriving just 6 months ago from Georgia Bulldog territory, is our sleep professional of the month, Robert Lindsey, M.S., RPSGT. Lindsey serves as the Director of Sleep Medicine & Neurophysiology at DCH Health System in Tuscaloosa. However, more than three decades ago, Lindsey was roughly the 1,300th credentialed RPSGT in what has blossomed to a current pool of over 22,000 RPSGTs credentialed by the BRPT, according to Sleep Review. Since his early entry into sleep, Lindsey has witnessed some drastic changes to the field of Sleep Medicine. In his more than three decades in sleep, one thing has been evident for Rob Lindsey: being adaptable and continuously pursuing education can set you up for long-term success.
Education: The Catalyst to Lindsey’s Career in Sleep MedicineRob Lindsey started his career in sleep in a similar fashion to others: he went to school, got a degree, and then earned a job as a sleep tech. Over the past three decades, he has consistently prioritized continued education efforts, and even this year, after all this time in the field, he’s still working toward another credential, the CCSH. During his time in sleep, Lindsey has held a variety of positions, including working as a tech for over a decade, an accreditation consultant, a sleep association president, the Director of Neurophysiology and Sleep Services at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital for a half dozen years, and an owner/operator of a home testing operation, NeuroSOM, for another half decade plus, all before landing in the sleep director role with DCH in Tuscaloosa.
Keys to Success: Focus on Both Patients and StaffLindsey has never stepped too far away from direct patient care. During the initial stages of the pandemic, he got back into the lab, working in an ICU unit, and he attributes success with his staff to this down-to-earth attitude.
“Being involved in patient care gives me an edge as a leader and manager, as I’m on the same page with my staff.”A typical sleep lab team consists of night technicians that handle hook-ups and mid-test patient challenges, as well as day technicians that score studies, reach out to patients to reduce no show rates, and support clinicians in making diagnoses. Each team also has one or more lab managers, who oversee each individual’s workload, and support the team wherever necessary. Lindsey has served in all of these roles, and he understands how important his team’s ideas and strengths are to the overall success of the sleep clinic. At DCH, his team oversees 20 beds in multiple locations, led by two experienced lead technologists and supported by 3 different techs with their CCSH credential, and Lindsey aims to be the fourth on the team. For Lindsey, it’s a dream role. He laughed, commenting on the smooth process and functioning of the team, saying: “I have to pinch myself sometimes, because I have such a great team. Some days, I like to ask them: what do you need me for?”
Change is Coming for RPSGT RolesOne theme that was evident in our conversation was that change is inevitable for sleep technicians. With the onslaught of technological advancements in the field of sleep medicine, Lindsey believes it will be an adapt or fade away scenario.
“I think the biggest driving factor for change is technology,” said Lindsey, expanding on the idea. “You can pick up an Apple device, you can pick up a bed that will estimate your total REM time from your local mattress store, and the validity of some of those estimates is very close to devices currently used in sleep labs and home testing.”Because of the constant evolution of sleep testing technology, he theorizes that job responsibilities will change, especially as higher acuity and heavier patients require more direct attention.
Addressing Higher In-Lab Patient Acuity Levels with EducationBecause each patient requires some sort of specialty care and treatment, Lindsey highly recommends to all his techs to get credentialed, attend CEU courses annually, and build skill sets by attending regional sleep conferences. And, he practices what he preaches. As noted, he’s pursuing his CCSH credential, decades after claiming his RPSGT. He will be attending and presenting at the Smoky Mountain Symposium in November, where attendees can earn a handful of CEUs and connect with regional sleep professionals. Conference season is in full swing. Some events are taking place in person, while others will be only virtual. You can find all the events that our EnsoData team will be attending on our Events page. One common theme that has cropped up in recent conferences across the country was highlighted by Lindsey in our conversation at various points: there is a significant increase in patient acuity levels that is changing the sleep industry.
Why Patient Acuity Levels are RisingThis felt like the boomerang topic of the conversation, as each question seemed to come back around to higher acuity levels. Lindsey highlights the variety of conditions and challenges a night lab manager and tech crew might encounter on any given night. The list included heart failure patients, patients with COPD, patients with comorbid lung diseases, patients with obesity issues, patients who are physically limited, and patients who are on prescription and non-prescription drugs.
“In many service areas where insurance requirements call for home testing as first line testing, night techs can be left only with patients whose comorbidities gained them approval for in-lab patient testing; and because of those requirements, staffs need to be able to run a small scale ICU,” noted Lindsey in a follow-up comment.Because of this increasing complexity, Lindsey believes the role of the RPSGT is changing. Techs can prepare by getting their credentials and labs can prepare by staffing the most educated team. Conferences and online webinars, like our “Tips and Tricks to Get a Successful Pediatric Sleep Study”, provide an opportunity for your techs to learn about valuable topics.
Educating Doctors and PatientsEducation isn’t just for techs. Educating primary care doctors and the patient population is also crucial. Providing more education is critical to expanding sleep health for all. Over the years, Lindsey was a frequent visitor on local radio shows, morning television shows, and more, talking about the importance of sleep health.
“All over the country, the further away you get from the urban areas, the more you depend on physicians and clinicians who don’t specialize in sleep,” said Lindsey. So, we just absolutely pummeled the landscape with sleep education.”He notes that most of the rural communities in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee depend on cardiologists and neurologists for sleep health. These physicians are incredibly smart, but they’ve received little to no specific education on sleep medicine. Per Lindsey, that’s simply not in the course requirements. So, it’s up to sleep labs to bring sleep health awareness to their doctors. And that’s what Lindsey and his medical Director, Dr. James Geyer, are doing to improve sleep health in the Tuscaloosa community.
Education, Education, EducationWhether the focus of the educational content is around sleep apnea, movement disorders, insomnia events, or other sleep disorders, Lindsey and his team consistently deliver the message to their community that sleep health is important. If you take one thing away from this sleep story, it is that education, in all forms, is crucial to running a successful sleep lab. Lindsey often plans educational promotions in the spring and fall to coincide with daylight savings. This allows folks to associate the education with a personal connection, specifically, when their sleep schedule is getting disrupted by the annual shifting of clocks.
Final Sleep Medicine Advice: Hiring, Degrees, and Listening to StaffAs a current sleep lab director and former owner of a private HSAT practice, Lindsey has done his fair share of RPSGT hiring. He cites his education and experience as the two primary reasons for his prolonged success in sleep medicine. He also notes that his degrees were the deciding factor in a number of jobs early in his career. With that in mind, here is his advice:
Sleep Medicine Advice For Night and Day Techs
“Get a degree. Get your certifications, but more importantly, get a four year degree. In 8-10 years from now, that degree is going to be a distinguishing factor. Read, apply yourself as much as you can, and get that degree. At some point in your career, your degree will make a key difference between you and another candidate.”
Sleep Medicine Advice For Physicians and Lab Managers
“If you want to be a better doctor or lab manager, you need to listen to those who you know are your best techs. You need to be able to trust their knowledge and their skill. It’s kind of like a new doctor coming into an ICU for the first time. A doctor should really listen to their nurses,” said Lindsey, referencing multiple decades leading sleep departments. “You can gain a lot by listening to your staff.”