Back to “Plan A”

Robert Yost
Robert Yost, BS, RRT-NPS, was working as an EMT when he accompanied a respiratory therapist on a 120 mile transport of an extremely premature infant to the University of Kansas Medical Center back in the 1970s.

“Knowing almost nothing about neonates at the time, I asked him, ‘What do we do if he stops breathing,’” recalls the education coordinator at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital in Knoxville.

The therapist calmly replied, “Well, we’ll breathe for him.”

Yost says he was hooked. A recent graduate of Kansas State University at the time, he immediately went back to school to get the basic sciences he would need to apply to the RT program at Wichita State University. Within a few years, he was a full-fledged member of the profession.

But then the 1980s hit and with them came talk of health care reform. After 12–14 years in the field, he started to get nervous that changes underway in health care in general—the introduction of the Diagnostics Related Groups and other initiatives during the Reagan years—might adversely impact the profession. He decided he needed a “Plan B” and went back to school to earn his AS degree in electronics engineering technology.

He spent the next ten years working in computer networking at the University of Tennessee, but in an ironic turn of events, it was that job that actually came to an end due to staff cutbacks during the first of many state and university budget crises.

But that was okay, says Yost, because he was beginning to question the change of careers anyway.

“I was never at home in the engineering/computer world,” explains the AARC member. “Never a lot of information sharing in those circles, and everyone crying emergency for things that don’t hold a candle to what I knew constitutes a real emergency. Love being back working with people who care for others on a daily basis.”

Robert Yost has this advice for anyone who might be thinking of leaving the profession for a while:

“Go be something else in addition to a therapist if you have the inclination. Whatever you have experienced outside the profession will in some way make you more valuable within the profession. I came back and had a key role in developing our institution’s implementation and rollout of our EMR, for example. I’m still not a real computer person, but I had sufficient knowledge to make a contribution.”