Kathy Martini

Kathy Martini, BS, RRT, is living proof that respiratory therapists can take their careers in many different directions. Over the past 24 years she’s gone from being a bedside therapist, to a 14 year stint in pharmaceutical sales, to her current position as a clinical enrollment manager at PAREXEL, a company that assists biopharmaceutical companies in planning and managing their research projects.

Online course opens doors

After graduating from her RT program in 1989, which Martini says she chose over nursing because she was a afraid of needles (a decision that definitely came back to haunt her a few times when she learned about a-lines and ABGs), she spent eight years as a NICU therapist, with occasional rotations through the pediatric and adult ICUs as well.

Along the way she went back to school to complete her BS degree, and at one point thought she would go to medical school. However, even though she had the MCAT scores to get in, life got in the way, and before long she was selling anesthesia meds for a pharmaceutical company.

Martini says she loved the job, but layoffs were common and she was caught in the crosshairs more than once. “While laid off the first time in pharma, I took an online course for clinical research and got my certificate of completion, which eventually led me to my current role,” says Martini. “I posted my resume on LinkedIn and a recruiter called me and informed me about the position.”

RT background comes into play

Many interviews and presentations later, she was offered the job with PAREXEL, and today she’s working on a clinical trial involving COPD. “My job as a clinical enrollment manager requires me to visit sites and review the protocol, inclusion/exclusion criteria, spirometry, and coaching style,” she explains. “Not everyone has the comfort level as a RRT to really work ‘loudly’ when coaching a patient.”

Her background as an RT is definitely coming into play with this trial, since she was already well informed about the disease and its progression. But her pharma experience has helped as well, easing her transition from commercial to non-commercial clinical trials in the U.S. “I can oversee any U.S. clinical trial with proper training,” she says.

The biggest rewards in the job come when she suggests a new idea to a clinical site and the site agrees to implement it. “I take ideas heard from all over the country and present these ideas to my sites to see if a different technique of finding new qualified subjects will work for their site.”

Kathy Martini has this advice for her fellow RTs who may be interested in seeking a career in pharmaceutical sales or as a clinical enrollment manager:

  • Talk to a respiratory professor or a guidance counselor of a college nearby. It is all going to depend on the type of degree that you have as to how far you can go.
  • Obviously, more education under your belt opens up many new avenues. I would definitely advise any fellow RT who only has a one year degree to at least get their AAS. Pharmaceutical companies won’t even look at you without a minimum of a four year degree in anything.
  • Research jobs will always be out there and seem to be recession proof. If you’re interested in research, I would definitely take the classes and get your certificate of completion and get your resume out there.
  • Sites are always looking for study coordinators, monitors, and research associates. It is hard to get your foot in the door in research, but, once you do you are in.
  • If you don’t know someone to get you in the door, so to speak, the education will!
Martini has come a long way since she learned to get over her fear of needles, but even though her current position has taken her away from the bedside, respiratory therapy remains an important part of her life. “I still maintain my RRT license and practice critical care on a prn basis on weekends here and there to maintain my skills, knowledge, and confidence!”