College News

CAAHEP accredits CCCC Sleep Tech Program

06.08.2009College GeneralStudents/Graduates

SILER CITY - Faculty and students in Central Carolina Community College’s sleep technician program have been wide-awake when it comes to learning excellence.

As a result, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs has awarded the program a full three-year accreditation. The CAAHEP is the nationally recognized accrediting agency for programs training health care professionals. The three-year accreditation is the highest it awards to polysomnographic technology programs (also called sleep technician programs). There are only 22 CAAHEP-accredited sleep technician programs in the nation.

Central Carolina is one of only five North Carolina community colleges with a CAAHEP-accredited sleep technician program. It is the only community college in the nation to offer the training through continuing education, rather than as a curriculum program.

“The CAAHEP accreditation was a rigorous process,” said Cindy Smith, the college’s medical programs coordinator in Chatham County. “We are delighted that our program has received this recognition of its excellence.  There is a large and growing demand for trained technicians. I receive calls from medical facilities and sleep testing labs all over the country to hire our graduates.”

The CAAHEP accreditation means that program graduates are qualified to work as sleep technicians in hospitals, clinics, or medical offices without direct supervision of a registered polysomnographic technologist (RPST). They are also eligible to take the national board exam to become an RPST.

Polysomnographic technicians and technologists monitor heart activity, breathing, and limb movements as subjects sleep. Electrodes are attached at 21 places on the head and body to supply information about brain wave, nerve and muscle impulses to a computer. A polysomnogram is created with multiple graphs indicating what is happening in the brain and body. A physician who is a specialist in sleep disorders uses the information to determine if a sleep disorder exists and possible treatment.

Sleep disorders can be the source of or a contributing factor in serious health problems. An estimated 50-70 million Americans chronically suffer from sleep loss and sleep disorders, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. These problems hinder daily functioning and adversely affect health and longevity.

The IOM said they are associated with an increased risk of hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. Sleep disorders are treatable with lifestyle changes, medications, surgery, or breathing aids such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.

CCCC launched its polysomnographic technology program in the fall of 2005. To be accepted into the program, an applicant must already be an experienced health care professional, such as a nursing assistant, emergency medical technician, paramedic, EEG or EKG technician, respiratory therapist, or registered nurse. They must also hold CPR certification.

George Zwilling, a registered polysomnographic technologist, is the instructor for the program. He is also a member of the North Carolina Sleep Society, American Association of Sleep Technologists, and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.

Central Carolina C.C.’s next sleep disorder technician class starts in October at the college’s Siler City Center. For more information, contact Cindy Smith, (919) 542-6495, ext. 213, or by email at cssmith@cccc.edu.

For more information on sleep disorders, visit the National Sleep Foundation’s web site, www.sleepfoundation.org, the Institute of Medicine at www.iom.edu, or the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, www.aasmnet.org. For more information on the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, visit its web site, www.caahep.org.