When you hear the term “Respiratory Care”, what does it mean to you? Does it mean clocking in and clocking out to collect a pay check? Or does it mean something special?
You see, I grew up in a family of RTs and entrepreneurs, and to me the term Respiratory Therapist or Respiratory Care meant something powerful – it meant excellence, it meant changing the world. As a child, my role models were (and still are) my father and my uncle, RTs who made a difference in patients’ lives and in our profession as a whole every single day. Like most kids, I had friends who wanted to be doctors, astronauts, and even the President of the United States. I knew at an early age that I wanted to be a Respiratory Therapist, I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and I wanted to make a difference . In my mind RTs were the top of the food chain. I assumed doctors and lawyers, politicians and astronauts were all equals to Respiratory Therapists. When I went on to respiratory school I learned this is not the case, and, to tell you the truth, I was devastated with disappointment when I found out that RTs were not respected the way I felt they should be – the way I respected them. But most of all, I was devastated that RTs didn’t seem to mind this situation we were in.
Think about it, we are highly skilled specialists in the diagnostics and treatment of the two most important organs, and yet we are, in many cases, content with our status. How can we be content being, as some call it, “treatment jockeys.” Is this what you went to school for? Did you wake up one day and say, “I really want to be in a job where respect is only given to those who earn it back after many before us worked hard to do the minimum to get by?” What about those elite before us who pioneered the profession and made it possible for us to make a living today?
RTs in some states are doing their part to change this perception by raising the bar. Ohio has an advanced practice masters program, and the state board is pushing for a status similar to that of a nurse practitioner. Other states have entry level requirements of a bachelors degree with an RRT credential. So you may say to me – what does this have to do with me? How can I help to advance our profession? Its simple…. Step up to the challenge. In this post Affordable Care Act healthcare environment we live in today, we have two options. We can:
- Sit back and hope we don’t get downsized and our hospitals that employee over 90% of the RTs in TN and nationally don’t lay us off with this massive push to do more with less, OR
- Rise to the occasion! Show our value in ways we never imagined five years ago.
Our health system is in a constant state of change, and what I ask you to think about is how every great movement started. It started with change, change that someone like you and I turned into an opportunity to be heard, an opportunity to make a difference.
I love change. I grew up understanding that change meant opportunity, change meant we could control our own destiny but only if we stay ahead of it.
So I ask you again, will you rise to the occasion? Now is the time to pioneer our way into the next phase of our profession like those role models and mentors who helped shaped our outlook on the profession, those elites who did the hard work for us.
TN Society for Respiratory Care & TN Respiratory Education Foundation