Getting off the Mommy Track

Lori Larson

Lori Larson

There are lots of reasons why respiratory therapists leave the profession for a while and then come back, but probably the most common one for women is to take time off to raise their children. But can you really devote 15 years of your life to your kids and then resume practice as an RT?

Lori Larson, BA, RRT, did it, and today she’s an RT at Seton Pulmonary Rehabilitation in Austin, TX.

A good fit

“I decided to become a respiratory therapist while taking prerequisites for nursing,” explains the mother of two. ”While doing volunteer work as a nurse’s aide in 1980, I quickly decided that nursing wasn’t for me.” She was in a patient’s room one day when an RT walked in to give the patient a treatment. She began asking questions about the therapist’s job, and decided RT would be a better fit for her.

Larson graduated from RT school in 1982 and was happily employed in the profession for the next 12 years. Then she had her first child, and since her husband traveled a lot in his job, decided to transition from her full time position to occasional PRN shifts. When child No. 2 came along a few years later, she really wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. As her kids grew, she did go back to work, but never in a full time capacity. “In the span of 1997-2008, I worked as a self-employed personal trainer, a travel agent, did a temporary job, and was a substitute teacher and a barista,” she says now.

But when her youngest turned 17, she decided it was time to reenter the workforce for real and set her heart on once again becoming a practicing therapist.

Gaining confidence

It wasn’t easy. First she called some local RT departments and inquired about the possibility of coming back. She got some positive feedback — a few places, for example, suggested she return to RT school and others offered goals she could work toward — but no job offers. Then she ran into a therapist who she says really made a difference.

“A lead therapist, Milly, was very encouraging and supportive,” she says. “Talking with her gave me more confidence to really try.” Larson began by joining the AARC and taking the continuing education courses she would need to acquire her Texas State License. Then she started applying for every job that came along.

“A home care company gave me my first opportunity to work as a respiratory therapist with CPAP and BiPAP set-ups,” she says. That was a great start, but she really wanted to be back in the hospital setting and continued applying for jobs. When none materialized, she finally offered to train for free until the staff felt she had been brought up to date. “That was when I got an offer,” she says. “I worked as a floor therapist and it was challenging and exciting for me all at the same time.”

A year later, a position opened up in pulmonary rehabilitation, and since she had prior experience in the area, she was offered the job. “I’ve been in this position now for four years and love it!”

Lori Larson offers these suggestions to former therapists who want to get back into the profession —

  • Join the AARC and utilize the free courses and CEUs offered on their site. Read articles to update yourself on respiratory medications and respiratory modalities.
  • Network, network, network — Get a Facebook and LinkedIn account and join respiratory groups. Participate in the discussion groups on these sites, and join your state association.
  • Call respiratory departments and talk with the manager. Let them know why you left and why you want to come back. See if they can meet with you and offer suggestions.
  • Volunteer for the COPD Foundation, local seminars, etc.