Harriette Janssen, left, and her daughter Elyse
discussed COPD and sleep disorders treatment
at a recent Farmer’s Market in their community.

I started working at St. Elizabeth Hospital (Affinity Health System) in Appleton, WI, in 1982 as a student respiratory therapy technician. After graduation I got a job full-time and grew in my knowledge and skills as the department grew.

I went on to get my associate degree, and for 15 years I worked part time as a staff therapist while our children were young so that I could have the best of both worlds. During those years, I would volunteer to work in the pulmonary function lab and pulmonary rehab clinics.

I left the hospital to try respiratory home care for two years and then returned to the hospital to coordinate the pulmonary rehab program. Then, with a change in physicians and health care organizations, the decision was made to merge the pulmonary rehab program with cardiac rehab. At the time, two cardiac rehab staff members were pregnant and would be on leave together.

The coordinator wondered what she was going to do. I piped up and said, “I’ll cover fulltime for the three months — just show me what I need to do.”

After six months of covering cardiac rehab fulltime, I was effectively “cross-trained” as a cardiac and pulmonary rehab specialist. Today I am the coordinator of cardiac and pulmonary rehab for both the in-patient and outpatient programs and am loving it. I have a passion for working with these patients — particularly those with COPD — and I join every committee there is within our health care system to get the word out on obtaining spirometry for diagnosis and use of the GOLD guidelines.

Respiratory care has been a tremendous career for me — and I am proud to say my oldest daughter (and fellow AARC member), Elyse Janssen, is now an RRT working at the same hospital system in the sleep lab.

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 DebBunch@aol.com and we’ll consider it for an upcoming edition of the AARC Career News e-Newsletter. Stories should be limited to 500 words.