Time to Move On? RTs Weigh In

respiratory therapist during a job interview
Most RTs will change jobs more than once over the course of their careers, and their reasons for seeking out a new position elsewhere are as vast and varied as the people in the profession themselves.

But making the most of the transition really depends on why you’re leaving and what you’re leaving for. Five therapists explain why they left their jobs for a new position, how it worked out for them, and what they believe their colleagues in the profession should consider before taking the plunge.

The chance to learn from leaders

For Holly Wilson, RPFT, taking on her current position as supervisor of the pulmonary function lab at SSM Health St. Louis University Hospital in St. Louis, MO, meant the chance to expand her skills in pulmonary function testing and work with leaders in the field, including well-known PFT expert Gregg Ruppel, RRT, RPFT.

While the job posed a steep learning curve, she says it’s been worth every moment she has invested into it.

“I knew that I would always need to be challenging myself to become better at my job,” she said. “I wanted to learn from the best.”

In her case, broadening her skill set, gaining mentors who are leaders in the field, and getting out of her comfort zone did the trick.

Her best advice: Leave to learn something new, not just for higher compensation, and don’t forget the impact the change may have on your personal life. For example, she has always found living close to her job to be of utmost importance to her quality of life but instead of taking mediocre jobs close to her home she has chosen to move closer to a good job.

Opportunity close at hand

Reva Crandall, RRT, CPFT, had been working in her current position for 17 years and she enjoyed her patients and fellow staff members. But other aspects of the work were burning her out and she wanted to do something where she felt like she was really making a difference.

She didn’t have to look far for that opportunity.

“I was lucky enough that I had been working with a research group at our institution for eight years as a shared employee,” Crandall said.

The group, which is run out of the Georgia Prevention Institute in Augusta, was working with cystic fibrosis patients she saw in the hospital clinic and they had been asking her to come over on a full-time basis for about three years.

While the thought of leaving the hospital setting she had worked in for the past 27 years was scary, she decided her ongoing happiness was worth the risk.

“I became a research coordinator with a vascular and exercise physiologist PhD,” Crandall said.

She did have to take a pay cut to take on the role — Crandall notes people in her position often don’t make as much as they could in the hospital — but she wouldn’t change a thing.

Her best advice: It is much better to have quality of life and happiness than more money. Her family says she’s much happier now and she’s learned that they always spend what they make, and they always seem to adjust to their paycheck.

Career advancement

Career advancement is a key reason for seeking out a new job, and that has always been the case for Diana Livingston, BA, RRT, director of cardiopulmonary, EEG, and respiratory at San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, NM.

“I felt because of my desire to be a leader and make a difference, each job I sought out was to advance my career,” she said. “I wanted to be able to create an environment of professional growth, and encourage individuals to tap into their talents, be confident, enhance the respiratory profession, and be proud of the work and contribution they made to their patients each day.”

She has made sure each new organization can live up to those expectations in part by reviewing its core values and mission.

“What are their beliefs, and do they align with mine?” she asks. Assessing those qualities up front makes for an easier place to work, she says.

Wilson has found the career advancement she was looking for in the moves she has made, including one stint she did in Egypt from 2007-2011.

“This was one of the more rewarding jobs in my career,” she said. “I taught mostly women and physicians concepts of respiratory disease, treatment, and ventilator modalities. In Egypt, knowledge is power and freedom, and they were so eager to learn.”

In another hospital she was able to promote the multidisciplinary approach, something she says was a new concept at that facility at the time.

“I focused on relationship building with nursing and other departments,” Wilson said. “As respiratory care practitioners, we bring a wealth of knowledge, and so many tools, resources, and assessment skills to the bedside, which complements the nurse, physician, and patient care.” 

Her best advice: Look for a new job because you want to advance your career, because the new organization is a better fit for you, because you’ll get an opportunity to expand your practice, because it will result in a geographical move you’re seeking, and because it offers more pay (which she says, as a single woman, is an important factor for her). Leaving your current place of employment because you can’t get along with anyone there or because you only want a higher paycheck are not in your best interests.

Family first

Changing jobs for professional advancement is certainly a good reason for most RTs. But sometimes personal factors come into play too.

That was the case for Bret Lynn, RRT, RFPT, when he decided to take a job as a pulmonary function technologist at Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, TX. While an increase in salary and responsibilities, along with the chance for greater interaction with pulmonary faculty in a teaching hospital, were important to him, getting his family out of a less than ideal living environment sealed the deal.

“I was able to get my daughter to a much better neighborhood and school district,” Lynn said.

His best advice: Good reasons for leaving are professional growth or improved quality of life. Bad reasons are strictly monetary compensation or personality conflicts.

Culture matters

Finding the right culture was the motivating factor for David Rodriguez, BA, RRT, when he left his job to become director of cardiopulmonary services at Hamilton General Hospital in Hamilton, TX.

“The c-suite, working environment, and medical community — these things mattered most to me at the time,” he said. The rural hospital environment he is in now has provided him with what he needs. “The c-suite, managers, physicians, and line staff all work together and treat patients as family,” Rodriguez said. “We may not always agree on everything, but we all strive for what is best for patients.”

He notes the majority of the physicians on staff attended the local high school and came back to serve their community, making it a very unique medical environment.

His best advice: Unsupportive bosses, high c-suite and staff turnover, and a less than ideal organizational culture are good reasons to seek a new job. Money alone isn’t. According to Rodriguez, quality of life is more important.

Clear expectations

The moral of these stories is this: before you go looking for a better job, make sure you are clear on your expectations and that the new job will fulfill them. As these RTs show, it’s more about professional opportunities and quality of life than it is about the number on your paycheck.