Interview with the Vice-President of the German Sleep Society (DGSM), Prof. Dr. Maritta Orth

Dear Prof. Orth, what is the status of the accreditation procedures for sleep medicine experts? Can you explain how the procedure works?

The German Sleeep Society offers the qualification “Somnologist”. This qualification can be achieved by physicians, psychologists, natural scientists and by technicians. The qualification process comprises a theoretical interview by a team of different sleep specialist (e.g. paediatricians, pulmonologists, neurologists, psychologists) and a practical part in which the candidate has to proof his or her technical and theoretical skills (e.g. montage of sleep studies, interpretation of polysomnographies, differential diagnostics and therapy of various sleep disturbances). Besides the mentioned trial some other premisssions have to be fulfilled: candidates should have worked at least two years in an accreditated sleep lab and be familiar with AASM criteria and the standards of the national sleep society.
Besides that the national organization of physicians (Ärztekammer) offers the possibility to achieve the term “physician for sleep medicine”.

Is such an accreditation procedure planned only for physicians or also for other professional figures like psychologists, technicians etc.?

As mentioned above, not only physicians but also psychologists, natural scientists and technicians can get the qualification “somnologist”.

Do you also have an accreditation procedure for sleep centers?

Yes we do. All sleep laboratories can achieve the accreditation by the German Sleep Society. For this they have to fulfill a high standard which is expected by the accreditation authorities of the German Sleep Society. This comprises architectonic aspects, a minimum of technicians and doctors with adequate qualification (e.g. the head of the sleep department should be a somnologist or sleep specialist). An accreditation committee visits the sleep lab, makes a questionnaire-based personal interview with the people on duty and tests their technical and theoretical skills. These comprise not only night-time related polysomnography but also daytime neuropsycholocial and –physiological testing. The accreditation process is managed centrally by a commission called “Somnonetz”. The accreditation commission is composed of somnologists of different specialities (e.g. methodology, neurology, psychology, internal medicine, pneumology). Reevaluation is performed every two years.

Do you have accreditation procedures for centers with different characteristics (multidisciplinary, respiratory specific, pediatrics etc)?

Yes we do. For example, in case of a pediatric sleep laboratory a paediatrician who has to be somnologist is part of the accreditation committee.

Is sleep medicine officially included in academic programs?

Meanwhile, sleep medicine has become part of students´ education. But the curriculae still have need of intensivation.

Do you organize accredited sleep medicine courses?

Yes we do. For example, to apply accredited polygraphy, physicians have to attend courses lasting five days comprising both technical and theoretical aspects of sleep disturbances. To prepare intensively for the specialization “somnologist”, the German Sleep Society offers intensive courses (e.g. neurology, paediatrics, pneumology, psychology).

Are you working toward achieving the recognition of sleep medicine as a medical sub-specialty?

In Germany, sleep medicine already is a medical sub-speciality. As mentioned above the national organization of physicians (Ärztekammer) offers the possibility to achieve the term “physician for sleep medicine”.

Is basic research in the sleep field represented in the German Sleep Society activities?

Yes it is. For example with regard to young scientists engaged not only in basic but also in clinical research German Sleep Society is offering special meetings actually conducted by Prof. Geert Mayer, former president of our society. Additionally we offer financial support for attending national and international meetings or research activities.

Thank you, Prof. Orth, for participating in this interview.

Lino Nobili