How I Went From Bedside Therapist To A Clinical Specialist In Industry

Greg Spratt

Greg Spratt, BS, RRT, CPFT, is the Director of Market Development for Respiratory Compromise at Medtronic.

Respiratory therapists depend on the technology developed by respiratory care companies to care for their patients, so it only makes sense that technology companies would seek the expertise of RTs when developing and marketing their products. How can you use your RT background to get one of these jobs? We asked Greg Spratt, BS, RRT, CPFT, Director of Market Development for Respiratory Compromise at Medtronic, to tell us how he made it work for him.

When did you become an RT and what drew you to the profession?

I became an RT in 1981 after finishing my undergraduate degree in biology. A friend who managed an RT department asked if I would be interested in becoming a respiratory therapist. After asking what it was, I said that it sounded interesting and started the following week as an on-the-job trainee. I obtained my CRT, RRT, and CPFT credentials in 1985-86 after completing a non-traditional RT course.

Where did you work when you first started out in the field and what did you like about that job?

I started at a community hospital in rural NE Missouri that was about 100 beds. It had a level III NICU and transport team, which I really enjoyed. I was a typical ER/ICU junkie. I’ve always enjoyed the flexibility an RT has to work in different arenas and have explored most of them in my career.

When did you move to the industry side of respiratory care?

After spending six years exclusively in the hospital, I moved to home care in 1987. I also started a hospital RT management company where I served as the consulting RT director for two small hospitals, and I started an Independent Diagnostic Testing Facility, or “IDTF.”

In 1997, I became the National Clinical Director, and later Chief Clinical Officer, for one of the national home care companies after our local home care company was acquired. In 2008, I moved to working as a consultant to several device manufacturers and went to work for a small manufacturer, Oridion Capnography, full-time in 2009. Oridion was acquired by Covidien in 2012, and Covidien was acquired by Medtronic in 2015, which is where I currently work.

What’s your position there?

I’m currently a Global Market Development Director in the Medtronic Patient Monitoring and Recovery group. I’m primarily focused on providing clinicians with better solutions to prevent and manage respiratory compromise, the evolution of breathing impairment through respiratory insufficiency, failure, and arrest. Respiratory compromise is the number one cause of ICU admissions, rapid response calls, and code blues in hospitals, and studies show nearly two thirds of it is preventable. We have to do better

What does the position entail?

My position is focused on global market development, primarily for our respiratory monitoring portfolio including capnography, oximetry, and respiratory rate and remote monitoring. Traditional marketing focuses on improving market share for a product in existing markets and applications. That is, competing for a bigger slice of the pie. In market development, we focus on expansion of the use of our technologies into new regions around the world, or for use in new applications in existing markets.

How is your background in RT helping you in the job?

RTs have a diverse and deep knowledge of respiratory compromise and its management, especially in regard to the application of technology. My background as an RT has been extremely beneficial in allowing me to see the potential use of current solutions in new applications by looking at a clinical need and finding ways to improve both clinical and economic outcomes. I’ve lived in the shoes of the RT on the floor, in the department manager’s office, and in health care administration, and I feel that helps me better understand their needs.

The longevity of my career also provides perspective on the adoption curve of new technologies in the U.S. and how that may apply to other countries or new applications. For example, I participated in the adoption of oximetry through the ‘80s and ‘90s and likewise with noninvasive ventilation starting in the ‘90s. We’re seeing the same with capnography now in its use outside of the operating room. The typical technology does not become a standard of care until 15 to 20 years after the release of evidence and guidelines supporting its use. That’s too long, and many patients who could benefit don’t have access. My experience on both sides of the equation allows me to help identify and remove barriers to access.

What do you like most about working on the industry side of respiratory care and why?

I’ve been very blessed to hold many rewarding positions and I’ve enjoyed them all. There’s nothing like the feeling of helping someone to breathe easier when hands on. As I’ve evolved into management of health care and now into market development, my satisfaction is more indirect in knowing I’m changing the way health care is being delivered to improve patient outcomes and reduce costs. Delivery models are evolving around the world and it’s a very exciting time. I still work very closely with many practicing clinicians and read more articles than ever to stay grounded in my knowledge of patient care. It’s also been very rewarding to travel around the world and see how health care is evolving.

Greg Spratt has these four tips for anyone considering a move into respiratory care industry —

  1. Be a continual learner. Find a specific area that you love and become an expert. Read everything you can find on the topic (use Medline, PubMed, and even Google) and offer to lead a project that is aimed at improving outcomes and reducing costs. Get involved in publication (articles, abstracts, and full peer-review research) and submit for presentations at regional and national conferences.
  2. Familiarize yourself with the business side of health care. In our value-based health care world, clinicians wanting to advance into management or industry cannot ignore the economics. In the U.S., we spend twice as much of our GDP on health care as other developed nations without significantly better outcomes, so there are many opportunities for improvement. Get your MBA or some business-related equivalent, something I never did and always regretted.
  3. Get to know people on the industry side of health care, especially those whose products are beneficial in your area of expertise. Expand your network, as every position I have held came through a friend or peer. Start with your local manufacturer reps but don’t stop there. Ask how you can get involved in an advisory board, doing a talk for the company, publishing a paper, or in research, depending upon your interests. Find mentors who have done what you want to do and offer to help them (e.g., conducting research, reviewing a paper, helping with a project, etc.) in exchange for helping you to learn.
  4. Continually adapt to the changing environment. Whether you stay at the hospital or move to another area, health care will continue to evolve rapidly. I’ve been a part of seven mergers and acquisitions in my career, four when I worked on the clinical side and three in industry. I’ve been retained in each of those, not because I was smarter or better than the 80% that weren’t, but because I learned to quickly adapt. Those who embrace change and become a change agent will have a decided advantage over those who can’t turn loose of “the way we’ve always done it.”