In March, after the first three of five steps in the process of developing an examination for respiratory therapists specializing in sleep disorders testing and therapeutic intervention were completed, a group of 40 AARC members met in Kansas at the headquarters of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC). There they spent 2 days in an exam-writing workshop and were charged with submitting questions for the new certification exam by April 25.
When all of the questions had been submitted, an examination committee met to review, revise, and edit the questions.
I questioned a spokesperson from NBRC about why this additional certification is necessary, since there is already an RPSGT credential for sleep technologists that is administered by the Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists. She told me that the NBRC certification is different in two major ways: It is a special examination just for CRTs and RRTs, and it will focus on therapeutics, not just diagnostics, which is the case with the RPSGT credential.
The role of a respiratory therapist specializing in sleep medicine includes the following criteria (among others):
- Must have NBRC respiratory credential;
- Must have experience or education in the discipline of sleep medicine;
- Identifies and cares for individuals at risk for sleep disorders;
- Prepares the equipment and patient for a sleep study;
- Maintains signal integrity during a study;
- Recognizes sleep disorders during a study; and
- Applies appropriate therapy
This last might be important in the face of the recent approval of home testing by CMS. An industry expert says that home testing could completely change the model of sleep diagnostics and therapeutics. It might be that sleep physicians will no longer have as much interaction with patients. Maybe the role of sleep laboratories will diminish? This could mean that sleep diagnostic and therapeutic device providers and the RTs on their staffs will play a bigger role and will need to have a greater understanding of the technology.
This could be a great opportunity for RTs who do not have sleep certification to add to their knowledge base. We would like to hear from you regarding your intention to take the NBRC sleep specialty examination. Just go to the home page and take the poll. We’ll publish the results next month.