Career Enrichment: Volunteering for Your State Society

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Helping patients breathe easier is the most important part of any respiratory therapist’s professional life, but there are lots of ways to add value to the satisfaction you get from the hands-on care you deliver at the bedside.

One of the best is to become an active volunteer for your state respiratory care society.

Three RTs who have taken that plunge explain why.

A true pleasure

Sherry Whiteman, MS, RRT, traces her active involvement in the Missouri Society for Respiratory Care (MoSRC) back to 2009 when a colleague nominated her for a district position.

“She saw something in me that I had yet to see,” Whiteman said. “I didn’t quite know what I had gotten myself into, but it was clear very quickly that I was going to enjoy working with the Missouri Society.”

She’s been serving in various capacities ever since — including a stint as president — and says she loves planning events, helping others learn, and finding ways to support her fellow therapists in the state as they seek out their professional goals.

“Becoming part of the society was a perfect fit,” Whiteman said. “Working with the Missouri Society has helped me better understand what respiratory therapy in Missouri really looks like.”

By networking with others in the society she’s been able to discover where the needs are in the state and that’s figured heavily into her day job as an RT educator.

She’s also found a terrific support group for her own professional endeavors.

“As a member of the MoSRC, I’ve gained an irreplaceable network of colleagues and friends who have encouraged me to go farther, do more, and be better — shaping me into the capable go-getter they knew I could be,” Whiteman said.

Sherry Whiteman’s advice on getting involved: Tell me that you want to participate. Then tell me again. And also email me and remind me that you want to help. It’s so easy to get caught up in everything and lose cards or contacts. Oftentimes, at the moment we discuss your participation I don’t yet know where to guide you. So if you contact me again at a later date, it’s likely that I’ll have a better idea of where help is needed. We NEED YOU to join us! We WANT YOU to be with us! I want you to have the same outstanding experience that I have had! Step out of your comfort zone and do something that will positively impact you and those around you.

Moving the profession forward

Dustin Goodman, RRT, RRT-NPS, who is currently serving as vice-president of the Wisconsin Society for Respiratory Care (WSRC), has been involved with his state society and the AARC since he started respiratory therapy school in 2013.

His current role is giving him the opportunity to make a real difference in what happens with RT in his state and he loves being able to help bring the profession and the society forward.

Goodman credits his mentors for helping him get where he is today.

“They were the ones who showed me the options of areas that the society covers and works with, and really taught me what it meant to be more than just a member, but to be an active member,” he said.

His work with the WSRC has opened doors for him professionally too by helping him connect with influential people in and out of respiratory care.

“Respiratory therapists are truly amazing health care providers and are some of most knowledgeable people to learn from,” Goodman said. “They have a wealth of knowledge that is not always appreciated. But should be!”

Goodman says his WSRC colleagues have become like family and he and his fellow leaders in the society are working to pay that forward by connecting with more members via social media.

“Our president and myself have been doing live videos via social media to keep our members up to date with what is happening around our state,” he said. “What I have noticed is people from all over the country get to see these videos. I have had people from in and out of state comment ‘you’re the guy that does those videos.’ It warms my heart to know that we are bringing Wisconsin’s practitioners forward.”

Dustin Goodman’s advice on getting involved: Take things slow. What I mean by that is to send that email and reach out to current board members and find out where the need is. Then when you feel like you have a good base of knowledge, run for an elected seat or have conversations with the president about a certain committee chair that you find interesting. Sometimes things take longer than we think, and it can become frustrating, but in the end it’s totally worth it. A good example is in my state this last year or so we had to fight very hard to keep our license. I never thought in a million years that I would be helping to write a white paper or be meeting with the secretary of the Department of Safety and Professional Services. I would have never guessed that I would be giving a best practice speech at the AARC House of Delegates. But these are incredible experiences and good things that have challenged me, not only as a person but as a practitioner, and have been extremely rewarding.

Mentoring future leaders

Rebecca Higdon, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, says her impetus for getting more actively involved in the Kentucky Society for Respiratory Care came after she moved from a hospital position to a position as an educator at a local college.

“Standing in front of our future leaders helped me to see that I was not doing everything I needed to do to help grow the profession,” she said. “It was not enough to just teach respiratory concepts; I felt I needed to take action and do something to mentor those that were coming up behind me.”

She decided to run for a junior district representative position on the KSRC board of directors and she’s been actively involved ever since. “I have served as junior and senior representative, vice president, president, and now as a delegate,” Higdon said. “The networking with other RTs that care about where our profession has been, where it is, and where it can go is invigorating.”

For her, being in a room filled with people who have a passion for their patients and care about how those patients will be cared for creates a feeling like no other. And it hasn’t hurt her career path either.

“I haven’t really ever made a list of ways state society service has boosted my career,” Higdon said. “I do know I have been around a good while and probably due to my service my name is out there. I’d like to think people have noticed I love my career and one day, if nothing else, they can stand around my grave and say she taught us well, she loved this occupation, and she led by example.”

Rebecca Higdon’s advice on getting involved: The past president of our society asked each of us WHY we do what we do. My answer was “No Breath, No Life.” This is true on so many levels. It is true for our patients and it is true for our profession. The state society has helped me to realize the vital role of EVERY SINGLE respiratory therapist in our state and how much we need their participation. If we as RTs don’t support our profession, why would we think anyone at the state or national level would care if our occupation is reimbursed for services, much less exists? It takes ALL of us to make a difference. We all have the same amount of time in our weeks and we will do that which is important to us. Helping people breathe better is pretty important. If you are an RT and you don’t get the “feel-goods” from experiencing patients that are improving because of your team, it’s time to move on.