Honoring Sleep’s Elite

trophyFor a decade we’ve honored the finest sleep professionals: those who demonstrate ingenuity, patience, and dedication to improving the nights of sleep-deprived patients. Each year, nominees for the National Sleep Achievement Awards have forced the bar higher. The winners of our 10th annual awards exceeded even our expectations.

Best Facility
Sleep Centers – Doctors Hospital of Augusta
Augusta, Ga.

“Once you’ve walked through our doors, you’re family.” That’s how Jeri Jones, RPSGT, explains the camraderie among staff at the Sleep Centers – Doctors Hospital of Augusta in Georgia.

The team of 11 comes from all over the pulmonary spectrum-there are four RPSGTs, four respiratory therapists, one REEGT, one LPN, and the sleep center’s secretary-and they see work as an opportunity to share their diverse knowledge and talents.

For example, John Varghese, RPSGT, has been holding classes to help his non-registered colleagues pass the board exam. Deborah Arrington, EEG, is showing coworker Keneshia Parks, CRT, the ropes in the EEG lab. And techs take shifts in the respiratory care department when the patient load gets demanding.

Staff at Sleep Centers- Doctors Hospital of Augusta pose outside their facility. Pictured from left to right are Carmel Joseph, MD, DABSM, Medical Director; Jeri Jones, RPSGT, Department Manager; John Doriot, Director of Diagnostic Services; Heather Pierce, RPSGT; Julie Farris; Keneshia Parks, CRT; Deborah Arrington, EEG; Terry Reese, RRT; Linda Burch, CRT; John Varghese, RPSGT. Not pictured: Penny Mehaffey, LPN, RPSGT, and Tracy Logan- Allen, CRT.

“We all work together: If we have to swap shifts, split a shift, we all work together to get it done,” Parks said.

“It’s what we call teamwork,” chimed in Linda Burch, CRT, “Giving the best of you to implement the best of patient care.”

The accredited lab strives for a 72-hour turnaround from sleep study to physician diagnosis and overnight titration study. It runs studies seven nights a week and offers a pull-out bed in each room to accommodate bed partners.

“Patients have chosen to come to us. despite where their insurance companies want them to go,” said Jones. “Choosing to pay out of pocket in this economy speaks volumes.”

The sleep department at Doctor’s Hospital of Augusta isn’t resting on its laurels. Judges for this competition were impressed by the lab’s “Inking What You’re Thinking” bulletin board where the techs posts goals and ideas for how to improve the sleep center. They’ve asked for educational courses and mask fitting clinics, and more staffing – all of which was granted.

Although Jones would like to be humble about the award, she is thrilled that we’ve spotlighted her department’s accomplishments. “My staff deserves to be recognized because they are some of the most caring people on the planet,” Jones said. Despite the many challenges of working in a seven-day-a-week sleep center, she says, “They roll with it with a smile and grace.”

Honorable mention:
• William Beaumont Army Medical Center
Sleep Lab, El Paso, Texas

Best manager
Bill Taylor, BA, RPSGT, RST
Mercy St. Anne Hospital
Toledo, Ohio

Sleep techs at Mercy St. Anne Hospital in Toledo, Ohio weren’t surprised to learn that their manager, Bill Taylor, BA, RPSGT, RST, took National Sleep Achievement Award honors. “He takes a lot of time, puts a lot of thought into his job,” said Jill Schnell, RPSGT, dayshift leader.

In just the past two years, he has developed sleep apnea screening programs for congestive heart failure patients, hospital in-patients, and hospital staff; redesigned technologist schedules to increase patient volume without requiring additional full-time employees; involved his lab in clinical research trials and pilot-testing new sleep equipment; and trained as a site visitor for the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Bill Taylor, BA, RPSGT, RSTBut what really gets Taylor going is improving sleep technologist education. “Sleep is still a relatively new field and you have to keep on top of it,” explained Taylor.

To motivate Mercy St. Anne employees to obtain the RPSGT credential, Taylor petitioned the hospital’s human resources department to establish a career ladder so t hat each technologist is reimbursed for the exam and given a promotion if they pass. They’re also reimbursed for earning the RST credential.

Taylor encourages techs to exceed their credential’s continuing education requirements with a “Learn and Grow” bulletin board where he tacks CE opportunities and articles on new technology in the field. He also coordinates monthly in-services on new technology, treatments, and alternative medicines and holds clinical office hours where he teaches advanced troubleshooting of polysomnography equipment.

In 2010, Taylor took his emphasis on education to the health system’s affiliated institution, Mercy College, and created a program to provide more formal training in polysomnography and sleep disorders testing. Eighty three percent of its graduates have passed the RPSGT exam on their first try. On top of it all, Taylor works per-diem as a sleep technologist and scorer to keep his skills fresh.

Taylor says he couldn’t do it without his “wonderful” staff of nine board-certified sleep techs, many of whom have worked at Mercy St. Anne for more than a decade.

“They are independent and go-getters. They manage themselves in a lot of ways and that frees up my time to look at new things,” said Taylor.

But Mercy Sleep Centers Director Michael Neeb, PhD, says Taylor brings a unique balance of entrepreneurial spirit and trust in his employees: “What I admire most about Bill is his constant positive attitude, lack of arrogance, and great sense of humor.Yes, he’s smart and talented and hard-working and technologysavvy and forward-thinking, but mostly he’s a nice guy.”

Honorable mentions:
• David Gregory, RPSGT, RST, The Sleep
Specialty Center, Roswell, Ga.
• Elise Maher, RPSGT, Sleep Health Centers,
Wilmington, Mass.

Best technologist
Gina Richman, RPSGT
Georgia Lung Associates Sleep Center
Austell, Ga.

Gina Richman, RPSGT, took a circuitous path to sleep technology-she started as a receptionist in a radiology office, then worked for a pulmonologist before segueing into sleep. Now that she is here, she can’t imagine doing anything else.

Gina Richman, RPSGT“I love everything about sleep medicine,” said Richman, chief scoring technologist at Georgia Lung Associates Sleep Center in Austell, Ga. “There is always something new to learn.”

Her passion for the field has led her to arrange countless staff in-service programs, assist her facility’s DME clinic with mask fittings and desensitization sessions when they’re overbooked, and volunteer her free time at respiratory and sleep health fairs.

But what sets Richman apart as a tech is her willingness to listen to patients. “A lot of techs just want to get t he job done, and t hat’s no fault to them,” said Nancy Ross, sleep center director at Georgia Lung. “Gina is very informative and puts patients at ease.”

During set-up, she tells patients where each lead goes and explains what information it collects during the test. Once they’re diagnosed, she listens to problems they have adjusting to therapy and talks with them about alternative options.

“Some of them need a little hand-holding or coaxing, but once you put (treatment) into perspective for them, it changes a lot,” said Richman.

Recently, Richman set up a PAP-NAPs program which uses limited-channel testing equipment to identify patient problems and help them acclimate to CPAP.

About the Contest:

    Judges for the 2012 competition were:
    Pamela Dickey, BSN-RN, RPSGT;
    Terry Cox, RRT, RPSGT;
    and Amy Leavitt, RPSGT.

    The following sponsor congratulates all the winners:


But don’t let Richman’s friendly and accessible nature fool you: She has a strong work ethic. Slow days find her cleaning out mask bins, rearranging files, updating the scoring manual, and developing new forms to keep the office organized. “She always just does what needs to be done,” said Ross.

Honorable mentions:
• Christina Pratt, RPSGT, Sleep Health
Centers, Worcester, MA
• Faye Hagerman, CRT, RPSGT, Pikeville
Medical Center, Pikeville, KY

Kristen Ziegler can be reached at [email protected].