Amy M. Sawyer, PhD, RN
“Imagine a night…when snowfall tucks you in and the evening star kisses you asleep. Imagine…tonight.” (Ron Gonsalves and Sarah L. Thomson, 2003)
As an advance practice nurse in Pulmonary Medicine, inclusive of a large sleep practice and laboratory, Amy Sawyer discovered that healthy sleep and disordered sleep are amenable to behavioral and pharmacological/device treatments and that nurses have a clear and impactful role to fulfill…to ensure that people understand that sleep is not a disposable activity in our 24/7 society but rather, sleep is a pillar of health that substantially contributes to health and quality of life.
“Through our everyday health behaviors, we can improve sleep quantity and quality; I am committed to improving our management approaches to healthy sleep and sleep disorders. This not only includes a profound commitment to extending our knowledge about sleep through science, but also translating sleep science to everyday best practices to ensure people ‘sleep well to be well.’”
- PhD, University of Pennsylvania, 2007
- MScN, Johns Hopkins University, 1995
- BSN, Millersville University, 1992
Inspiring students to develop and refine an intellectual curiosity is a pedagogical priority for Dr. Sawyer. “Inquisitive minds bring forth the science and knowledge of tomorrow.” Blending intellectual curiosity with scientific rigor ensures that pressing health/disease-related problems can be addressed to improve outcomes for people, organizations and society. Whether in the classroom or in teaching and mentoring settings outside of the formal classroom, Dr. Sawyer urges students to ask, “why” and “how can we do better and do more” – this approach to teaching encourages all students to engage in personalized learning by ensuring students are in the forefront of, and often leading, the learning environment. “Fully engaged learners are the practice and research leaders of tomorrow.” Dr. Sawyer not only urges students to ask questions, but to also use science, or evidence, to answer such questions. Combining evidence with patients’ beliefs and values, and our nursing expertise, contributes to a practice that is evidence based and continuously changing and improving to meet the needs of our patients and communities in this dynamic era of healthcare.
Dr. Sawyer’s research focuses on health behaviors relative to sleep disorders. This line of inquiry emerged from her long-standing clinical practice in sleep medicine, where Dr. Sawyer became acutely aware of patients’ reluctance to use sleep-disordered breathing (i.e., obstructive sleep apnea, OSA) treatments and resistance to behavior change to improve sleep. Dr. Sawyer’s research has identified distinct differences between adults who consistently use treatments for their sleep disordered breathing and those who do not; such findings led to the development and testing of a non-adherence risk screening index, I-NAP, and the design/testing of interventions to improve treatment use. “Sleep is a basic biological need; if sleep is diseased or curtailed, the sequelae are significant. As the science of sleep and sleep disorders is relatively young, treatments for sleep disorders and healthy sleep are continuously emerging. While such treatments may be highly efficacious, it is just as important to ensure that treatments are effective – effectiveness is largely determined by patients’ willingness and commitment to use a treatment. To improve effectiveness, it is critical to understand health behavior from the patient perspective and with such knowledge, design and test health behavior interventions and delivery system innovations.”
Dr. Sawyer is jointly appointed at the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz Veterans Affairs Medical Center, where she directs evidence based practice for Patient Care Services (Nursing). Collaborating with staff nurses, managers, clinical nurse leaders, advance practice nurses, nurse scientists and the executive leadership, Dr. Sawyer is advancing the VA practice culture to be evidence based and instilling passion for continuously improving every day healthcare delivery to ensure “Veterans First.” Dr. Sawyer is also a liaison between the School of Nursing and VA, mentoring students and colleagues in VA healthcare systems and practice and building the academic partnership between Penn and VA.
Opportunities to Learn and Collaborate at Penn Nursing
Dr. Sawyer teaches graduate courses focused on biophysiologic measurement and data analytics. She also teaches about sleep health and sleep disorders in the graduate practice programs. Dr. Sawyer mentors PhD, postdoctoral trainees and DNP students, including training opportunities in both Veteran and general adult sleep-disordered populations and healthcare system program implementation.
Selected Career Highlights
- Editorial Board Member, Sleep Health, Journal of the National Sleep Foundation
- Sleep Research Society Trainee Education Advisory Committee (TEAC) Mentorship Program Mentor
- Sleep Research Society Research Committee member (2012-15)
- NIH Early Career Reviewer
- American Nurses Foundation (ANF) Scholar
Sawyer AM, Gooneratne N, Marcus CL, Ofer D, Richards KC, Weaver TE(2011). A systematic review of CPAP adherence across age groups: Clinical and empiric insights for Developing CPAP adherence interventions. Sleep Medicine Reviews 15; 343-56
Wallace DM, Williams NJ, Sawyer AM, Girardin J-L, Aloia MS, Wohlgemuth WK (2017). Adherence to positive airway pressure treatment among minority populations in the US: A scoping review. Sleep Medicine Reviews 38; 56-69.
Cantey Edmonds J, Yang H, King TS, Sawyer DA, Rizzo A, Sawyer AM (2015). Claustrophobic tendencies and continuous airway pressure therapy non-adherence in adults with obstructive sleep apnea. Heart & Lung 44; 100-106.
Yang H, Watach A, King TS, Sawyer AM (2018). Clinical trial enrollment enrichment in resource-constrained research environments: Multivariable Apnea Predictino Index (MAP) in SCIP-PA Trial. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine 14(2): 173-181.
Wallace DM, Sawyer AM, Shafazand S (2018). Comorbid insomnia symptoms predict lower 6-month adherence to CPAP in US. veterans with obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep & Breathing 22(1): 5-15.
Saconi B. Yang H, Watach A, Sawyer AM (in press). Coping Processes, Self-Efficacy, and CPAP Use in Adults with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Behavioral Sleep Medicine.
Watach A, Radcliffe J, Xanthopolous M, Novick MB, Sawyer AM (in press). Executive Function Impairments in Adolescents with Obesity and Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Biological Research for Nursing.
Sawyer AM, King TS, Sawyer DA, Rizzo A (2014). Is inconsistent pre-treatment bedtime related to CPAP non-adherence? Research in Nursing & Health 37(6); 504-11.
Sawyer AM, King TS, Hanlon A, Richards KC, Sweer L, Rizzo A, Weaver TE (2014). Risk assessment for CPAP nonadherence in adults with newly-diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea: Preliminary testing of the Index for Nonadherence to PAP (I-NAP). Sleep & Breathing 18(4); 875-83.
Sawyer AM, King TS, Weaver TE, Sawyer DA, Varrasse M, Franks J, Watach A, Kolanowski A, Richards KC (2017). Tailored intervention for PAP adherence: The SCIP-PA Trial. Behavioral Sleep Medicine Jan 27; 1-25 (Epub)