Respiratory care departments are full of people who meet the expectations set out by their job descriptions. RTs who are looking to advance their careers need to do something more to make themselves stand out from the crowd.
Volunteering for special projects or other activities can be the ticket to success. These AARC members tell how it worked for them —
As a team leader, among other things, I volunteered for a Palliative Care Committee, ICU Committee, and RT Education Committee — and spearheaded several projects, including a project to incorporate mini bal into our ICU practice. When it came time to be interviewed for my present position, I believe those kinds of activities were instrumental in my advancement.
— Greg Rittenhouse, BS, RRT, Kettering, OH
I’ve been in the field for 37 years and I have always made it a point to volunteer for projects that I thought I could make a difference in. I volunteered to take on quality assurance for the department when first out of school and have been part of performance improvement since then. Back in 2001, when the hospital was looking at an electronic medical record, I offered to be on that team, and years later, I am still part of the ancillary team that looks at how to improve the EMR. I truly believe that my volunteering and involvement in the department has led me to the position of director. By volunteering, you put yourself out there and it allows you to network with other disciplines to learn how you need to develop yourself to become a leader.
— Gwen Hesselman, BS, RRT, Dubuque, IA
I have volunteered at many different community health fair events to help raise awareness in the community for lung disease, provide early detection, and offer education. These events have been a way for me to provide value when it comes to annual performance reviews and to get a “feather in my cap” with my boss. The networking opportunities with other health care providers have proven valuable as well. When you can connect “outside of regular work” it allows a chance to know these people on a different level.
— Tina Lovings, BSRT, RRT-ACCS, Winston-Salem, NC
I have given volunteer time to local high school and college health care education programs, our state level asthma coalition, asthma education, state board of medicine, AARC diagnostic board, spirometry instruction to medical offices, and a few others as needed along the way. Numerous doors to other opportunities have been opened to me in the course of volunteering, but just as important is that answering all the questions put to you makes you better at what you do.
— Lande Lambert, CRT, Twin Falls, ID
Many moons ago, as in 1975, I volunteered to teach BLS to employees and the general public on my own time. I also volunteered to participate in research at the nearby university medical center. Both helped me land a job as a director within months of obtaining my bachelor’s degree. The latter also resulted in those researchers asking me to participate in additional research and coauthor articles with them.
— Jack Fried, MA, RRT, Salt Lake City, UT
I remembered how awkward it was to be a student and how scared I was and I just thought it would be nice to take a student and mentor them in a positive way. That little act of kindness and volunteering led me to a 35 year career of teaching. Helped me get my first teaching job too! I guess when I did that to help that student it did something to me too. Volunteering is transformative on both sides.
— Steve Wehrman, RRT, RPFT, Honolulu, HI
I have had several opportunities for voluntary service on our campus. The first was my participation in the Dean’s Task force on Diversity and Inclusion for MU’s School of Health Professions. The purpose of the task force was to promote the success of under-represented minority students in health professions with an emphasis on race and ethnicity, but also considering others who may face discrimination or may not be appropriately represented. The second opportunity was a voluntary appointment to MU’s Family Friendly Campus Committee, which has sought to identify the most pressing needs confronting our families on campus. We recognize that making the campus environment more friendly and accommodating for families will help ensure the success of students, faculty, and staff.
— Jenny Keely, MEd, RRT-ACCS, Columbia, MO
I volunteered for the McAllen Kids Marathon in my community. As a respiratory therapist, I am interested in promoting a healthy lifestyle. The activity was for school kids to complete a marathon (26.2 miles) over an 18-week period. If they did, they received medals, t-shirts, and other goodies. It was an amazing experience. It exposed me to our community leadership and allowed me to work directly with our CEO. It was definitely a positive for exposure to senior leadership.
— Kenneth Smith, BS, CRT, McAllen, TX
I was asked to co-MC an awards show at the hospital where I work. Despite knowing this would temporarily add a substantial amount of extra work to my day, I agreed to do it. I don’t think this experience will boost my career, but one never knows what different opportunities, big or small, it will lead to. Plus, if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t have had the chance to work with hospital employees that I would never have worked with.
— David Wolfe, MSEd, RRT-SDS, RPSGT, Baldwinsville, NY
I was asked to lead a hospital trial, multiple-discipline subcommittee for the care of bronchiolitis patients in 1997. In an attempt to show added value of RTs performing standardized, detailed care management to this subgroup of patients, we collected data outcomes. We were not given raises or time to collect, analyze, or publish abstracts; however, we published over 20 on bronchiolitis outcomes. Eventually, we took this standard across our 22 hospital corporation, producing consistent outcomes. The result lead to other opportunities to identify areas of potential process improvement and the standardization of care across our corporation. With the coordination of other respiratory care experts, we now have over 20 standardized protocols for care. In fact, my current job as the system manager of respiratory care was created to simply do just that — identify opportunities for care improvement and to standardize the care that respiratory therapists provide across the corporation.
— Kim Bennion, MHS, BSRT, RRT, CHC, Salt Lake City, UT
I host a Pulmonary Fibrosis Support group that meets quarterly on a weekend, as well as lead the “Harmaniacs”— our Harmonicas for Health group, which is currently meeting two times a month on the weekend. Our hospital generously donates the space and it has been very rewarding for me. The relationships I now have with my patients are priceless and enhance my ability to care for them because they trust me to be there for them. They often share things that they have not shared with their doctors. They call for advice and with changes in their medical status, making me and our team more effective at coordinating care to achieve the best outcomes.
— Stephanie Alderman, CRT, New Britain, CT
I volunteer for our annual hospital fundraising golf classic. I sell raffle tickets and help with the silent and live auctions. Because of my volunteer involvement I’m familiar with the hospital board of directors, the foundation, administrators, and department heads. When I meet them in the hallways I’m greeted with a friendly hello. My volunteerism makes me feel more connected to my workplace, which boosts my employee morale.
— Darla Mondragon, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS, AE-C
Over 25 years ago I volunteered to be part of the patient-centered care educational task force at my hospital. The task force was responsible for developing an educational methodology to address the transfer of respiratory care and other clinical procedures to nursing. Being part of the task force team was an invaluable experience for me and opened the door for me to become the clinical educator of respiratory care, a position I have held for the past 20 years. I was able to demonstrate individual skill sets, but more importantly, expand the understanding to all clinical departments of the value and expertise the respiratory therapist adds to the management of the patient. This helped the respiratory care department grow in numbers and garner responsibilities throughout our network.
— Kenneth Miller MEd, MSRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, FAARC, Bath, PA