The AARC OPEN FORUM Series: Jefferson Mixell, BS, RRT

Jefferson Mixell AARCJefferson Mixell presented one of his 2015 abstracts during the Editor’s Choice session in Tampa.

Conducting clinical research in respiratory care is a win/win situation for therapists, regardless of whether or not they work in a research position in their current organization. Research not only helps to shore up the scientific basis for the treatments and modalities used to care for patients, it also puts a big, bright, career-boosting star beside the name of the therapist who conducts it.

In this issue of Career News, we’re launching a new series of articles aimed at learning more about the research process from presenters at the AARC Open Forum.

When, where, and why did you decide to study high priority ventilator alarms? What piqued your interest in this topic?

Shortly after returning home from AARC Congress 2014 in Las Vegas I began thinking about what I’d like to do the following year. The Congress in Las Vegas was my first AARC Open Forum experience and I knew I wanted to build on everything I learned that year. I was a staff therapist at the time, and I would take notes on questions I had as I was working. For the majority of questions I wrote down I was able to find some answers that were already published. After some careful research about ventilator alarms I wasn’t convinced there was a consensus on how alarms should be managed.

Were these 2014 and 2015 studies the first you ever conducted? If not, how many other studies have you completed?

My first experience with research came in college, where I performed capsaicin cough challenges on some of my peers. The opportunity to do research, much less human research, was exhilarating! Shortly after starting my first staff therapist position I began to ask more experienced members of the department how I could get involved in research. I helped conduct a retrospective analysis of another recent topic of interest with unclear conclusions — unplanned extubations. I played a supportive role in that research, presented at the 2014 AARC Open Forum, and learned a lot about how to formulate an abstract. In this most recent research I took more responsibility and consulted others to assist.

How did you gain support from your hospital to conduct the three studies you presented at Open Forum 2015 and who helped you carry them out?

Christiana Care Health System, and specifically my department of respiratory care, is uniquely supportive of any professional involvement their therapists pursue. I am fortunate to work with some other therapists like John Emberger and Fran Gott, my coauthors in this research, who are much more experienced.

How difficult was it to work the studies into your normal duties as a respiratory therapist at the hospital? Do you think it was worth the time and effort?

Anything that could potentially increase the collective knowledge of the profession and improve care of our patients is worth the time and effort! I would sometimes print out articles to review in any down time I would have, but many times it meant staying a little later or coming in a little early to get some work done. Staying organized was critical to success. The amount of data we collected was astounding.

How did it feel to learn that your abstracts had been accepted to the Open Forum — and most especially, that your abstract, High Priority Ventilator Alarms That Received No Intervention: An Analysis of Ventilator Alarm Informativeness in Intensive Care Units, was selected for the Editor’s Choice session?

It is such an incredible feeling of accomplishment when all of the work you’ve put into improving your profession is validated! There is an inherent amount of risk involved in submitting your work for peer review. If not done carefully, then you certainly run the risk of it not being accepted. When I learned of the Editor’s Choice award I was ecstatic. I immediately called up Fran and John to tell them the good news. I didn’t even know what it necessarily meant yet, but I was so honored that our work was considered.

How do you think conducting these studies and having them accepted to the Open Forum is helping to further your career in respiratory care?

Therapists who conduct research have a unique and integral role in the profession. While learning what else has been studied on the topic, they better themselves and their understanding of respiratory care, they improve the care of their patients, and they improve the reputation of the profession. When the research is published it serves to better everyone’s understanding and also improves the profession. Finally, publishing research serves to connect you to others who have similar interests as you, expanding your professional network.

What advice do you have for other therapists who might like to follow in your footsteps but just don’t know how to get started?

Getting started is usually the most difficult part of the process — besides the statistics! Developing an abstract requires you to think critically about what the most essential question is for the problem that you want to address. After you’ve identified your question, find people who can help you answer it. Find someone in your department, or network with someone online, who has experience with publishing research. They’ll be able to give you the boost and direction you need to achieve your goals. Don’t be afraid to submit research that doesn’t show what you thought it would either. If you go into a project expecting to find a difference between two interventions, that data is just as, if not more than, important any positive research published.

Are you planning to conduct more studies in the future? If so, what will you study next and why?

I remain very interested in how to improve ventilation. We have such sophisticated ventilators now, but we use most of the same alarms we’ve used since we started mechanically ventilating patients. There are some data to suggest that newer modes could decrease the amount of false alarms, and I’d like to help validate those findings. I plan on working on some retrospective data to determine if the reorganization of our department has positively impacted the care of our ventilated patients. I also hope to help at least one other person submit their research to the 2016 Open Forum.

Want to connect to researchers in respiratory care? Join our Research Roundtable. It’s a great place to meet the people who can help you move your study ideas forward.