The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports the Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare Sleep Health Clinic is one of the most well-run sleep labs its surveyor has ever reviewed. The AASM recently awarded Gillette a five-year re-accreditation. The re-accreditation demonstrates Gillette’s commitment to high quality, patient-centered care.
Gillette sleep medicine specialist, John Garcia, MD, says his team is proud to receive what is known as “the gold standard” by which referring physicians can evaluation sleep service programs.
“I have been part of five accreditations and re-accreditations in three health care systems,” Garcia says. “This is the first one in which the reviewer had no provisos. For myself and the team this really was an accolade recognizing that the Gillette Sleep Laboratory exceeded standards of quality.”
"Our staff works harder and cares more tenderly."
Gillette has one of the nation’s only sleep medicine programs specifically designed for people who have disabilities or other complex health conditions. Garcia says this special patient population makes Gillette different from other sleep clinics. “Simply put, our staff has to work harder and care more tenderly. Children with developmental disabilities pull off their electrographic sleep leads more frequently, are at more risk for falls and have variation in behaviors,” Garcia reports. “You name a stressor and the Gillette sleep techs have encountered it.”
The COVID-19 pandemic changed many things at the Gillette Sleep Health Clinic. For example, there was a brief pause in overnight sleep evaluations in the summer of 2020. Now the clinic is fully opened and is conducting both in-person and virtual appointments. Garcia is licensed to clinically evaluate patients virtually in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Jennifer Maytum, D.N.P., pediatric nurse practitioner, works with Garcia and says children who have complex medical conditions are at greater risk for sleep disorders. “For example, patients who have epilepsy often have unusual behaviors in sleep and need to work with a neurologist to figure out if they’re experiencing a sleep problem or a neurological issue. “
“Children who have Down syndrome typically have low muscle tone and anatomical changes that make them prone to sleep apnea,” Maytum says. “Our patients who have muscular dystrophy are often dealing with hypo ventilation—meaning they are breathing at a very slow rate and it results in an increased amount of carbon dioxide in their blood.”
The sleep health specialists at Gillette work closely with patients and families to properly diagnose and treat sleep disorders. “Our techs are adept at working with people with cognitive and physical impairments. At Gillette we have a good success rate at completing sleep studies and getting data from electroencephalograms (EEGs) so we can detect the electrical brain activity in a child,” Maytum adds.
When it's time for a sleep study
Maytum and Garcia say families struggling with sleep issues should make an appointment for their child to have a sleep study. “Sleep issues for a child can impact the entire family,” Maytum says.
Garcia suggests, “When a parent notices their child chronically working harder to breath, having breathing pauses, snoring persistently, waking more frequently for unexplained reasons or sleeping more during the day, that’s a sign that this child should have their sleep evaluated.”
If it is determined a sleep study is needed, the patient would usually come to the Gillette Phalen Clinic in St. Paul. Maytum says unlike other sleep clinics, the program at Gillette provides each patient with their own sleep technologist to monitor them. (Most other clinics have one technologist for every two patients.) A parent or caregiver may sleep in the room with the patient or choose to sleep at a nearby area as long as they wear a mask and adhere to COVID-19 precautions.
To sleep, perchance to dream...
“It’s rewarding when we can help a child get the rest they need,” Maytum says. “One of the best parts of my job is seeing the relief on the face of an exhausted parent. It’s great to help the whole family get the sleep they need.”
Garcia agrees that helping families is incredibly rewarding. “Families give us their trust. In return, our team provides medical care and treatment. Often a family will come to us having struggled with a child’s sleep disorder for years. They believe that’s just how life is. The good news is that it really doesn’t have to be that way.”
Garcia likes to highlight a quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth when talking about the importance of getting good rest. “Sleep that knits up the raveled sleave of care. The death of each days’ life, sore labor’s bath, balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course. Chief nourisher of life’s feast.”
To make a sleep or virtual care appointment at Gillette please call 651-290-8707.