First Job

Respiratory therapy students in many programs across the country are getting ready to walk across the stage and accept their well-earned diplomas, and we want to congratulate each and every one of them for making it through a tough program of study and becoming an official RT.

But while this is an exciting time for new grads, we also know it can be stress-producing, even for those who already have a job lined up. What should these new grads know about making the most of their very first real job in RT? Here are a few tips educators in the profession may want to share with their students –

Your first job isn’t your last job: Sometimes new grads show up to their first job expecting to implement all of the sophisticated treatments and technologies they learned about in RT school, only to find that they are assigned to the lower level tasks in the department. Disappointment can ensue, but it shouldn’t. First jobs are about learning the ropes. Subsequent career changes will deliver on the expectations you graduated with.

Build your skills: Learn about all the different procedures and modalities offered by your department, and let your supervisors know you would like to gain experience in as many of them as you can. But remember: they won’t just give you a chance at learning new skills – you’ll have to earn it by delivering the highest quality of care you can to each and every patient on your treatment list.

Choose your mentors wisely: Each RT department is unique, with its own set of personalities and perspectives. Some you will want to emulate, some you won’t. So observe your new co-workers with an eye towards assessing their commitment to the department and the profession, and their potential for career growth. Then seek out those with a positive, can-do attitude to serve as your role models and mentors.

Learn about your new organization: Yes, you have gone to work in the RT department. But the RT department is just one part of a much larger organization. So pay attention to hospital newsletters and other communications aimed at keeping staff informed about new initiatives and other changes taking place. Look for your role in helping the organization reach and exceed its goals.

Volunteer for projects: Most departments are involved in a variety of committees, groups, and task forces designed to improve patient care. When a staff member is needed to sit on one of these groups, raise your hand. Serving in this capacity boosts your value to your managers, and it often provides an opportunity to network with clinicians outside of respiratory care as well, since many such groups are multidisciplinary in nature.

Find your niche: Respiratory care is a diverse profession, with opportunities to practice in many different areas. Think about those you would like to specialize in, such as neonatal-pediatrics, pulmonary rehabilitation, and pulmonary diagnostics, and then take advantage of opportunities to work in those areas to see if they are really right for you.