Decades of supporting patients and prioritizing education for allIn this month’s sleep story, meet another intelligent, compassionate EnsoData clinician: Kimi Clark, RPSGT, CCSH. Born in Illinois, but raised in South Carolina, Kimi began her medical career as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) in 1993, before moving into sleep medicine in the late 90s. At the time, there weren’t any college programs for sleep medicine, rather there were certificate programs. So when Clark first got into sleep, she was trained on the job (OJT) at the Southeast Regional Sleep Disorders Center. During the BRPT-required 18 months of training, Kimi developed her craft. From there, she went back to school for an AAS in Polysomnography from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Kimi was one of the first technologists to earn a degree in Polysomnography, something that still gives her a lot of pride. But Kimi’s successful career in sleep medicine hasn’t followed a typical path.
The Intrigue of Sleep MedicineLike many technologists in her cohort, Kimi’s entry into sleep medicine was unexpected. Her sister-in-law was finishing her nursing degree and one of her many jobs was working at a sleep lab. She advised Kimi that she should give it a try, which led to an OJT opportunity where Kimi found her calling. That said, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. During the first couple days of training, Kimi thought she made a terrible mistake getting involved with sleep, but the breakthrough moment was on the horizon.
“Back then, with OJT, you had to learn it all at one time,” said Clark. “That included working through patient set-ups, learning the computer sleep programs, and most of all, actually understanding what you were looking at on the screen. It was overwhelming to say the least, but by the 3rd night it all started to come together, and the rest is history. I fell in love with sleep from there.”At that time, the RPSGT exam was held only twice a year, so if you missed the cut off by a month, you’d have to wait another 6 months to take it. Even more challenging, it was only offered in certain cities. So Kimi had to make the three hour journey to Raleigh, NC to take the exam. After hours of studying, she took the test and passed with flying colors, becoming the 3,313th registered technologist. Today there are well over 22,000 RPSGTs. “I never could have imagined how much I would love the practice of sleep medicine in all its different capacities,” said Clark. Fast forward more than two decades – from day scoring, to educating fellow techs, to climbing the proverbial ladder – and we get close to the present day. Just a year ago, Kimi was serving as Vice President of Clinical Services at Medbridge Healthcare – a role she held for more than 16 years. However her passion is using education to advance sleep medicine.
Education is the Key to Advancing Sleep MedicineFor Kimi, an important moment was leading by example to promote additional sleep education and technologist role expansion by earning her CCSH credential. Education doesn’t start and end with physician to patient discussions. Internal education is also a key pillar to success. For Kimi, that education started from the very beginning with the lead physician at her workplace.
“I was lucky enough to work for a physician who was very much a teaching physician,” Clark said. “Not a day went by where we didn’t review sleep studies together, so I had the unique experience of basically getting a semi sleep fellowship as a sleep technologist. I was very lucky to have had that foundation to start off my career in sleep medicine.”How did she pay that educational experience forward? First, by sharing her own insight with dozens of young technologists in the MedBridge system. And second, by passing on encouragement and wisdom to her patient population. As someone with multiple decades of patient experiences, it was hard for Kimi to identify a specific example. However, there were “hundreds of times” she heard a CPAP patient say in the morning, ‘I can’t believe I didn’t get up in the night!’ For many patients, it’s been years since they’ve had a consolidated night of sleep and “as a sleep technologist, CPAP therapy gives you an instant satisfaction to see how much you’ve helped the patient,” noted Clark.
Bringing Sleep Medicine into the FuturePer Kimi, “sleep is as critical as the air we breathe.” Though she thinks the general public is starting to understand the importance of sleep, she believes there is still more to do. Sleep not only impacts our physical health and the proper functioning of our organs, but it can have a major impact on our mental health as well. That’s why she made the career change to join the EnsoData clinical team. Kimi truly believes education and innovation are the keys to advancing sleep medicine, and moving into the technology side of sleep was an obvious next step for her. At EnsoData, Kimi uses her past experiences to help sleep technologists and physicians make efficiency and workflow improvements to their sleep lab. An EnsoData customer for over 5 years prior to joining the team, Kimi’s expertise utilizing EnsoSleep to improve the MedBridge workflow and support her team of technologists, gives her a unique perspective to share with other organizations considering EnsoSleep for their sleep centers. Her advice to technologists and lab managers when asked about AI Scoring technology:
“First, it doesn’t replace sleep techs, it empowers them! Also, it’s not like old time auto scoring, it actually works!” said Clark. “AI can take a tremendous burden off technologists to get them through their scoring tasks so much faster, allowing them to spend time on other tasks or even more time on the more complicated studies.”