Gary Wickman, MSRCL, RRT, FAARC
Seattle Central College
Member Since: 1983
Elections Committee Questions:
What AARC or Chartered Affiliate offices/positions have you held where you feel you made a significant contribution to our profession? What is the contribution and how will you apply it to your new position, if elected?
I have held several positions over the years where I feel I have been able to make a significant contribution to the profession. As chair of the AARC Bylaws Committee in 2011, I asked the committee members to each specifically mentor a couple of affiliates. Each committee member developed a relationship with the people from the affiliate they were responsible for and helped them through the bylaws process. This allowed the affiliates to have a personal contact who could answer their questions during the process. As chair of the chartered affiliates committee between 2007 and 2009, I led the team through the revision of the process for determining which affiliate would win the Summit Award. I led our team to determine specific objectives that were easily scored and could be accomplished by any affiliate. This led to a fairer process overall. I think one of my most rewarding positions has been serving as a director on the AARC board. I think one of the most significant things we were able to accomplish as a board was to revise our Strategic Plan to include specific goals that the AARC can do to help promote and advance our profession. Working on this team, I was able to voice my opinions and work collaboratively to set the direction for the profession for years to come.
As chair and a member of the AARC Membership Committee, I was able to work with the executive office and the AARC Membership Team to reach out to the affiliates to better understand what was important and valuable to the active member, the educational programs, and the affiliates. We made significant changes to the AARC Membership Tools website. I was able to work directly with students, through several student webinars and speaking at several affiliate conferences, to discuss with them the value of active AARC membership. I think the most rewarding position is the legislative committee chair for the RCSW.
I have been an active advocate for the profession and our patients since the early years of my AARC membership. I was active in getting the certification and then moving that to licensure for respiratory therapists in the state of Washington. I was also instrumental in getting continuing education credits required for licensure in Washington State. This helped drive safety for our patients. In 2011, I helped lead a bill through our state legislature that allowed RCPs to take orders from any LIP. This helped expand our scope of practice in Washington State and provide more access for our patients to respiratory therapists. I am very passionate for the profession, for the patients we care for, and most of all for ensuring that we, as respiratory therapists, provide safe and valuable care to our patients. I will use my experience in leading as a clinical director, the different chair positions I have held, and now in my role as faculty for students who want to become leaders in the profession to help demonstrate the value of the AARC to our professionals, to our patients, and to our communities, if I am elected to the board of the AARC.
What experience would you bring to the AARC to accomplish the goals set out by President Walsh?
I support the goals of President Walsh for the AARC to focus on safety, quality, and value. My experience as a respiratory therapist at the bedside, a director of respiratory therapy, and other multidisciplinary departments in a hospital setting gave me the knowledge and the experience in leading teams to drive safety and quality in the hospital. It also helped me to prove the value of having respiratory therapists involved in multidisciplinary quality teamwork.
I led a multidisciplinary team to improve extubation times for open heart surgery patients. The solution was a team driven one. We made several changes to how our team delivered care and were able to increase the percentage of patients extubated within 6 hours of surgery to 80%. This was done with simple solutions; one was to write the goal time on a white board in the room so the whole team knew the goal. The second change was for the RT and the RN to call a meeting with the surgeon if there were issues with achieving that goal. These simple solutions improved our performance and increased the safety of the patient by decreasing complications due to mechanical ventilation. I think one of the keys was that this was multidisciplinary. We need to work with our clinical partners to achieve safety and quality and to show the value of respiratory therapists on the team.
Another quality initiative that I helped lead was to create a COPD transition coordinator position in my hospital. This team worked with COPD patients to help educate them on how to self-manage their disease and to discharge them from the hospital with the services they needed to assist with their care. This was a big change in culture from the way our hospital had been discharging these patients. It provided more value for the patient by educating them, following up when they went home, and having the expertise to best provide the assistance they needed. This was a success and showed the hospital executives that RTs can be an integral member of the team to help decrease 30-day readmissions and provide better services for our COPD patients. I also think my work on the affiliate level, in the AARC House of Delegates, and on the AARC board has been important in my development as an advocate for the profession of respiratory therapy. I have shown in my work with the RCSW and the AARC that I have the experience and have had good outcomes for change to our profession.
What ideas do you have to attract non-members to join the AARC?
I think that we need to do a much better job in providing value to the members of our profession. We also need to do a much better job in communicating to them in ways that they are familiar with. I think that we cannot continue the same methods and expect a different outcome. We have been able to level off the decline in membership but have not made a gain in membership in a few years. I think that chaining up the committee membership to reflect the cultural makeup of our profession will help bring new ideas to the AARC Membership Team. I do think that we need to reach out to the profession to better understand what they want. We also need to make obvious what value people are getting by being members. We need to work to show the value of the respiratory therapist to the executive teams in their places of employment and help to drive this by our advocacy, safety, and quality work, demonstrating this through more RT involvement in research, increasing the level of our entry-level education, and finishing the work on the Advanced Practice Respiratory Therapist. This will help give RTs that want to stay in the clinical arena a place to advance their practice. If the AARC can partner to help get these things done, then the non-members will begin to see the value of supporting the profession through membership.
What do you see is your role in being a member of the AARC Board of Directors and what specific issues that face the profession now would you see as something you’d like the AARC BOD to work on?
My role as a member of the AARC Board of Directors is to be an advocate for our patients and our profession. I think the specific areas that I am excited about and want to see the board work on are: 1) assist affiliates to move to RRT as the entry level for licensure in every state, 2) assist educational programs to move to a bachelor’s level as entry level education for respiratory therapists [We need to partner with the other organizations involved to help make this happen.] 3) We need to finish the work to create the Advanced Practice Respiratory Therapist so that our profession has a good clinical avenue for advancement and to provide better quality and safety for our patients, and 4) We need to continue our legislative advocacy work to help promote the profession of respiratory therapy to our greater community by demonstrating our value for our patient population.
I am an active member since 1984. I have held most of the leadership roles in the Respiratory Care Society of Washington (RCSW) including, chapter president, president, board member, and delegate for two terms. My employer is supportive of my work in the AARC. I do have the resources to maintain good communication and have always worked to project a positive professional image as a respiratory therapist in the workplace, in the community, and at the legislature.