It’s Never Too Early: Why Continuing My Education was the Best Investment in Me

Matt Mendoza

Matthew Mendoza,BS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, is a respiratory therapist at Valley Children’s Healthcare in Madera, CA.

I received my bachelor of science in health sciences from California State University, Fresno in Fresno, CA, in 2010. I started the Masters of Science in Respiratory Care Leadership (MSRCL) program at Northeastern University in April of 2016, with the expectation of graduating by fall 2017. If it takes a little longer, that’s okay. I am enjoying every second of the program.

I decided to continue my education in the MSRCL program for the following reasons:

  1. Personal achievement. This means a lot to me because I want to show my son that anything is possible with hard work and dedication. I know it sounds a bit corny, but it’s an honest answer.
  2. To show other RTs in my department that advanced education will open numerous doors that most therapists do not even know exist.
  3. To advocate for my profession and my patients. Having more education will always put you in a better position to do so.
  4. To stand up for my department. The lack of proper and effective systems, whether it be utilizing the AARC’s Benchmarking system, Uniform Reporting Manual, Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program Toolkit, or the 2014 AARC Respiratory Therapist Human Resource Study to make educated decisions for policy change in a department, can lead to RTs being unengaged. This can make employees feel stuck, or unmotivated to try and further their own career clinically and academically. Numerous people in my department put their heart and souls into this hospital, and more often than not, the lack of these innovative systems can make change very hard to accomplish. I am sure this happens all across the country and this leads to the respiratory profession progressing at a very slow rate when this should be our time to flourish and show our true value. I want to help. I want to give back. I need the right level of education to do this, and there is no easy way or shortcut to go about that.

A solid foundation

I can honestly say that since starting my MSRCL program, I have never been more engaged and excited about my profession and where it is going. Not everyone will get the chance to network with some of the finest minds in our profession as well as have meaningful discussions about topics that will shape the future of respiratory care, but if you have the desire and can be resourceful, you can find a way. I highly recommend going for it if you can do it. Being able to talk with and get advice from therapists all over the world is amazing.

I feel I am already reaping the rewards. I have been able to become a member of the California Society for Respiratory Care’s Central Region Government Affairs Committee, I have the confidence to contribute on the AARConnect website, I became secretary for my facility’s Respiratory Professional Development Council, I have worked with our education department on providing asthma education for school nurses and health educators in the Central Valley, and I have been asked to be a part of a variety of classes at my facility, including our Powerful Precepting Workshop course.

I have a dream of being my department’s future director, and I know that I need to put the building blocks in place. Education is of key importance for a solid foundation to build upon. I will have to know how to guide my department in the right direction and remove as many obstacles as I can for the future leaders of respiratory in the Central Valley.

Endless possibilities

I started my respiratory career as a respiratory assistant, and where I end my respiratory career is completely up to me. How hard do I want to push? How far do I want to go? With the right educational background, networking, and passion, the possibilities are endless. That is why I am continuing my education, continuing the adventure, and enjoying every second of the journey.

I hope this might re-spark your interest in furthering your own education and creating a new adventure for yourself. Do it for your patients and your profession; we need you! Lastly, kudos to all the PhD RRTs out there. Thank you for setting the example and paving the way for us. I hope to join your ranks in the future!

Matthew Mendoza is a respiratory therapist at Valley Children’s Healthcare in Madera, CA.