Christian Becker instructs a group of student nurses in his facility’s cardiopulmonary gym
Christian Becker instructs a group of student nurses in his facility’s
cardiopulmonary gym.

By Christian P. Becker, MS, RRT

I have been a respiratory therapist for 38 years. After having worked in my hospital for nearly 20 of those years, mostly in the ICU and ER, I noticed that we had quite a few “frequent flyers.” These were severe COPD patients who presented to the ER with an acute exacerbation, were intubated and placed on a ventilator in the ICU, were weaned off, went to a medical floor, got discharged, and went home. A few weeks later, they were back in the ER in distress again! 

I found it frustrating in that I would try to work with these patients, but there were always interruptions — you know the kind: STAT ABGs, Code Blues, etc. I could not interact with these people as well as I thought I could.

As a response to this situation (and with the blessings of my department director), I began a COPD Support Group. This in turn sparked an interest in pulmonary rehabilitation. I was a staff therapist, I had no managerial or administrative authority at all, but I did a lot of research, performed a cost/benefit analysis, and developed a business plan to develop and implement a pulmonary rehab program. My director supported me and gave me some guidance when I needed it.

Administration agreed with my proposal and I was put in charge of the program!

That was 17 years ago. Today I am the senior clinical specialist for the outpatient cardiopulmonary rehab programs at St. Charles Hospital & Rehabilitation Center in Port Jefferson, Long Island, NY. In addition to pulmonary rehabilitation, I also run the cardiac rehab program and the Easy Breathers COPD Support Group. Along the way, I got involved with smoking cessation counseling, asthma education, and disease management as well.

Through these efforts, I found that I loved teaching, so I became an assistant clinical professor for the respiratory therapy program at SUNY Stony Brook, where I specialize in cardiopulmonary rehab instruction.

Going the extra mile has really given me great opportunities, responsibility, and a job that I absolutely love. I had wanted to work in a supervisory capacity, but there was no opportunity in the organizational structure in the hospital at that time. It was frustrating, but I persevered and created this position for myself. It has allowed me to become involved with professional organizations like the American Association for Respiratory Care as well as the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation, COPD Foundation, American Lung Association, and the American Heart Association.

An added bonus is that since we are an outpatient clinic, we all get weekends and holidays off and we don’t have to worry about staffing 24/7! This gives the staff and I more time with our families.

So I advise all of you —go the extra mile! You get out of your career what you put into it!

If you have a good story to tell about a time when you went the extra mile at work and it paid off for your RT career, send it to Debbie Bunch at and we’ll consider it for an upcoming addition of the Career Newsletter. Stories should be limited to 500 words.