COVER STORY IN ADVANCE FOR RESPIRATORY CARE PROFESSIONALS MAGAZINE MAY 26, 2008 VOL.21, NO 12
Area specialists in university settings often don't send high-acuity patients to their own institutions for a sleep study. Instead, they refer them to the Alexian Brothers Medical Center's Sleep Health Center in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
"We do such a darn good job," boasts Denise M. Anderson, RPSGT, clinical supervisor.
Roughly 60 percent of their patients have diseases or conditions that require a special touch, including Duchenne's muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, complex OSAS and pre and post heart or lung transplants.
Anderson recalled one incidence where her staff treated an autistic 8-year-old boy with Down's syndrome. Not only did they dutifully care for him (the hookup took four hours), they also accommodated the child's parents and his service dog.
"I will remember that experience until I die," she said.
Such specialized attention starts before the patient even comes through their doors. The clerical staff spends at least 10 to 15 minutes on the phone with the patient or family member. They find out about special needs so the rest of the sleep team can be fully prepared when the individual arrives for the appointment.
From there, education becomes a key part of the process at the 10-bed center.
"We try to assess how much they understand about why they're here," said Archana Patel-Szadowski, RPSGT. "At other labs, they may give them a video to watch and that's it."
Unique scheduling for both the patients and the employees comes with such specialized care.
Patients are staggered 90 minutes apart to allow extra time for education, taking vital signs and just getting to know each other. "This is not a cookie-cutter lab where everyone arrives at 8 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and is bed by 10 p.m.," Anderson said.
On the staffing end, their day and evening/night scorers also contribute to the department by chipping in one Saturday day a month working with MSLTs, MWTs and late sleepers. They also pick up an occasional evening or night and may split a 12-hour shift to provide help during times of high census, sick coverage or special situations.
Beyond this extra effort, the techs-where two-thirds are RPSGTs-should be commended for their increased skill set, said Kelli DeBerry, CRT, RCP, director of Respiratory Care and the Sleep Health Center.
In particular, they regularly work with a device to transfer non-ambulatory patients between the wheelchair and the bed-a job not necessarily always handled by sleep techs.