Border Crossing: How a Canadian RT Transitioned to Work in the U.S.

Shamima MatherShamima Mather, RRT

Shamima Mather, RRT, started out in the medical field as a medical laboratory technologist. But while she enjoyed the work, something was missing. “I decided to come out from behind the scenes, so to speak, to have a more direct impact on patient care,” says the transplanted Canadian who now works as an RT at Lowell General Hospital in Lowell, MA.

Respiratory care seemed like a great fit. She graduated with honors from the RT program at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 2001 then went on to serve as a therapist at several hospitals in Alberta over the next 12 years.

So, how did a therapist from our neighbor to the north end up practicing RT down here in the states? Mather says her husband, an American citizen, got a job offer in Boston he just couldn’t refuse.

What went into making the move? We’ll let her tell it—

What did it take to transition from employment as an RT in Canada to employment as an RT in the U.S.? How difficult was it to gain all the necessary credentials, licensure, etc.?

It takes patience. In previous years the NBRC recognized Canadian respiratory credentials. There was a time recently when only those attending accredited American colleges and universities were allowed to take the exams. Luckily, the NBRC is now allowing Canadians to write once more. I wrote both the CRT and the RRT. I am just happy I still had my Egan’s!

You joined the AARC in January—why did you believe it was important to become a member of the U.S. organization when you moved down here and how are you using your AARC membership?

The value of the AARC for me comes from access to information, journals, conferences, and connections. I really like the discussion boards. It brings different lines of thinking to light and it is a great way to understand how others practice.

How does practicing RT in the U.S. compare with practicing RT in Canada?

It’s the same, but different. Treatment modalities and care of the respiratory patient are essentially the same. The difference comes in the way other health care workers approach RRTs. In my experience, they tend to defer to RRTs more in Canada than in the U.S. when it comes to respiratory health.

How do you like working in the U.S. and what are your long range plans for your career?

It feels good to be part of the American RRT community and learn new approaches to respiratory care. I think there are a lot of opportunities here in the U.S. for RRTs beyond the hospital environment. I would eventually like to parlay my skills and background into a clinical specialist position working with a medical device manufacturer or as an onsite clinical educator. I am completing my bachelor’s degree in health science and…along with continued growth and development, I feel that holding a degree can broaden access to new opportunities and new career paths within the field.

Would you recommend transitioning from Canada to the U.S. to your Canadian colleagues? What are the key things they need to know about coming to work “down south”?

As RRTs are not part of NAFTA, it is more difficult for Canadian RTs to transfer to the U.S. than other health care professions. It is important to research the work visa and certification process and understand that regulations and requirements vary from state to state.

And just realize that moving “down south” doesn’t mean you still won’t get a record setting nine feet of snow!