Welcome to my first in a series called “Respiratory Round Up.
Twenty seven years ago I became a Respiratory Therapist. When I was a child I can remember my own hospital stays with asthma. The ones who seemed to take the most time with me were the respiratory therapist.
I thought it would be unique to ask a group of Respiratory Therapist some questions and publish a round up.
Your probably scratching your head wondering, “What does a Respiratory Therapist do?” The best way for me to describe what an RT does is by an article I found at Respiratory Therapist License. com titled “What Is A Respiratory Therapist”?
Respiratory therapy is best described as the assessment and treatment of patients with both acute and chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. Today’s respiratory therapists have demanding responsibilities related to patient care and serve as vital members of the healthcare team.
Everyone who participated were asked the same three questions.
1. What made you decide to become a Respiratory Therapist?
2. How has your experience as an RT helped you in your personal and professional life?
3. What advice would you offer to someone looking at Respiratory Therapy as a career path?
Scott Dykes RRT
1. I saw that I could make a difference, using my personal experience. I wanted to pay it forward….
2. Helped me by day to day care of patients, and saving lives. Personally, I was my sister’s medical advocate when she was comatose after an MI, with anoxic brain injury.
3. See picture
Hayfa Perez, BS, RRT-NPS, SDS
1. The Respiratory field caught my attention when I witnessed a friend on life support. Initially intubated, then trached and unable to be weaned off life support. It was a struggle for all involved in his care- Family, friends, Clinicians and the RRT’s. They struggled with him step by step and always initiated trials with positive reinforcement. At that time, I was not in the medical field and found it overwhelming, yet fascinating. I had the opportunity to speak with some of the RTs there and realized instantly that I wanted to help people live and breathe. I wanted to be able to make a difference. Respiratory Care is a growing field that is blossoming. Many avenues to venture and I ventured happily. Years later, I still love the field and feel passionately about what I do.
2. My experience as an RT has helped me grow as a person- professionally and personally. It’s made me appreciate life and to always remember there are those who have far more struggles than I do. The simple things taken for granted such as breathing, talking, and eating can be the unobtainable dreams for others. I think about that and remind myself how harsh life can be to have such simple pleasures taken away. After so many years the field still amazes me. I still encounter cases that humble me. There is always a case that presents unlike another and reminds me that I have so much more to learn. It also reminds me to have compassion and empathy in my heart.
3. The advice I would give someone looking at Respiratory therapy as a career path is to review first what Respiratory Care is and make sure the field attracts attention. Choosing this career path, one must be focused, study and understand that the decisions made will affect lives. It is not a field to be taken lightly. It is intense, but rewarding. Always be ready, ask questions, follow instructions and directions. Be respectful to patients, preceptors and colleagues. A strong Therapist is built on values and always remember that patient care is priority.
Sheila Hensler, RRT, BS
1. I wanted the excitement of medicine without the nursing responsibility. But I wanted to work directly with patients. Being an RT has given me that.
2. I have had many experiences as an RT, some good, and some not so good. But the one thing that has changed is that I am more confident in both my professional and personal life. A lot of times as an RT, the information I give and the decisions made for a patient require some risk. Being willing to take those risks has created my confidence.
3. There are so many more options now than when I became an RT. It used to be that RT’s worked in hospitals, LTAC’s, PFT’s or home care. Now, there are APRT options, RT’s work with ECMO, and can even be found in physician offices. Aim high. Don’t settle for “just an RT”.
Karrie Mitchell, CRT (No picture was given given to include)
1. Right out of high school in 1995 I was making $10 an hour working for an alarm company, and back then that was good money. I felt like I wasn’t ready for college at that point. I was making more money than a lot of my friends and just didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. After a couple of years, I switched to banking and then I became a Phlebotomist. My mom is a nurse and was always trying to talk me into becoming one and I just didn’t want to. After seven years as a phlebotomist I was told I had topped out my pay scale and wouldn’t make any more money. I was making $12.75 an hour. I went to see my mom at work and she was stressing about not having enough nurses for the weekend. I looked at it and said, screw it I will go to nursing school. I considered several schools and after finding out there was a minimum 2 years wait to get in I got discouraged. I was sitting in the ICU talking to one of the pulmonologists about wanting to go to school and being discouraged and he told me that I should be an RT and not a nurse, because as he put it I wouldn’t have to wipe grown up butts. I still chuckle about that. This conversation took place in May and I started RT school in August, I was 29 at the time. When I graduated and went home to Wyoming I started working at a small mom and pop DME and realized I liked the consistent patient interaction. I moved to a national company with more opportunities about a year later. 10 years later I am a General Manager of a branch and I am the RT.
2. When I was in school everyone would say don’t go into home care you won’t ever gain any skills. I’ve been in home care 10 years and I have gained many skills that I wouldn’t have working in a hospital. I was incredibly lucky to have had a manager for 6 years that let me run the RT department (ok I was the only RT) my way. She let me push for better therapies for my patients and encouraged me to push my own boundaries and learn every aspect of the business. She taught me how to manage a budget and staff and supported me when I didn’t think I was smart enough to do things that were new. When an office within our company needed a manager, she pushed senior management to choose me for the position. Along with the management and RT component of my job I am also the sales person, and because I speak from a clinical background I have found it easy to get doctors to talk to me and work with me and sales was not something I ever thought I would be good at it. But my tiny branch in a tiny town is doing amazing things. I took over a branch that was in the hole and they were talking about closing it and I made it better. I think the thing that I have learned is to never take no for an answer and keep pushing for more.
3. I think the one thing I would say to someone in RT school or considering it is to never discount homecare and think that home care RT’s aren’t real RT’s. Also consider what is important to you, do you want to just treat patients and often not know what happens once they leave the hospital, or do you want to work with them for a long time? I get updates from families about their family member I have taken care of, I get pictures of babies I took care of. It’s a different animal, but it’s not less in any way.
Michael W. Hess, BS, RRT, RPFT
1. I had been fascinated by medicine for a while, but didn’t really feel that medical school would be practical at that point in my life (almost 30 with 2 kids). My wife was a nurse, and I thought that might be a good way to go, and then I discovered the waiting list in our area was about 2 years long. I wanted a career a little more urgently than that, so I looked into respiratory care. The director of our local program was willing to bring me in even though I was missing one pre-req at the time, and I was very grateful for that. I had a vague sense of what RTs did, because one of my kids was a preemie and I had worked at DME office for a year or so doing customer service, but I didn’t really “get” much of it. However, after only a few weeks of the program, I fell in love with the profession, and I never looked back.
2. The journey has been incredibly fulfilling in so many ways. I’ve been fortunate to have various opportunities to see how the healthcare system works from several angles, in both inpatient and outpatient settings. I’ve been able to touch lives and share experiences with people from an incredibly broad cross-section of life, and I’ve learned something from every interaction. In my current role, I’ve seen that every person has a story, and the assumptions we can be quick to make as clinicians are wrong more often than we’d care to admit. Learning to look past preconceptions has, in turn, made me a better parent, a better spouse, and a better advocate for both my profession and the people we care for. Being a respiratory therapist has empowered me to increase both my knowledge (through academics) and wisdom (through experience).
3. What advice would you offer to someone looking at Respiratory Therapy as a career path?
You will get out of this profession almost exactly what you put into it. If you go in with the belief that there are certain limits to our skills or practice, you will never learn to exceed those limits. But the truth is, our field is virtually limitless. More and more RTs are breaking out of the traditional bedside mold, and becoming entrepreneurs, consultants, clinical educators, even CEOs. We are poised to take on an even bigger role in healthcare, but we must be ready to accept the responsibilities that go with that larger profile. That means being ready to take on more education, and to be creative in demonstrating our value. Be ready to probe your own limits, and you’ll learn that they aren’t barriers, but rather mileposts on your journey.
Alicia Osmera, CRT, RTL
1. As a kid with childhood asthma I watched many RT’s take their time administering my breathing treatments. Also my mother was in and out of the hospital with lung issues when I was younger. One therapist was very rude and in a hurry. He made my mother feel like crap. Like she didn’t even matter. I decided I could make a difference to those in need.
2. Respiratory therapy has given me many experiences. Taught me to be empathetic, courteous, and caring towards others. Professionally I have done many things from trauma, flight transports, pediatrics and more.
3. To those whom maybe considering a career change, I will just say follow your heart, fund a program where you can shadow someone to make sure this homeless profession is for you.
I’d like to thank all of my fellow Respiratory Therapists for participating in my round up.