Treating respiratory conditions starts with getting the right diagnosis, and respiratory therapists who work in the pulmonary function laboratory are key to making that happen. In the following interview, AARC Diagnostics Section Chair Katrina Hynes, BAS, RRT, RPFT, shares her take on the specialty and what therapists need to know before seeking out a position in the area.
How long have you been an RT, and how long have you being working in pulmonary diagnostics? What drew you to the area?
I have been a RT for eight years, and have had the privilege of working in pulmonary diagnostics the entirety of my career. The patient population that we serve drew me towards pulmonary diagnostics. I appreciate and value the opportunity to provide testing that adds “a piece to the puzzle” in a patient’s journey to find a diagnosis and hope to improve their quality of life.
What would you say are the biggest changes you’ve seen in pulmonary diagnostics over your career and why do you believe these changes stand out from the rest?
The most significant change I have seen in my career thus far is the demand for advanced education. The RT job description is rapidly evolving and diversifying. Credentials matter. I foresee a bachelor’s degree being a requirement within our job description in the near future.
What do you think are the biggest factors driving change in pulmonary diagnostics and why?
Our need to protect and define our profession is a key driver of the increased educational requirements. The ACA and health care reimbursement constraints are, and will continue to be, driving forces of pulmonary diagnostics.
How have these changes impacted the job market for therapists who specialize in pulmonary diagnostics?
Under the Hospital Readmissions Reductions Program, CMS recently posted the FY 2015 IPPS Final Rule, which includes penalties linked to patients readmitted for an acute COPD exacerbation. This charge, as well as others, drives quality and demands efficiencies in our profession. Most impactful, the initiative will spawn a growing demand for diagnostic testing and preventative care in an effort to keep patients out of hospitals and reduce preventable health care expenditures.
What do you think therapists who would like to get into the area of pulmonary diagnostics should know before taking the plunge? What should they do to prepare themselves to succeed in the specialty?
Whether you are a seasoned RT or a new graduate ready to begin your professional journey, I recommend shadowing in a pulmonary diagnostic clinic prior to taking the plunge. Doing so will enable you to make an educated decision as to whether or not the specialty is a good fit for you.
There is a plethora of resources to aid RTs in being successful in the specialty. First and foremost, our professional organization is a library of endless resources. Our goal as leaders within the organization is to help RTs be successful. I encourage every therapist to maintain AARC membership, including membership in the Diagnostics Section, throughout their professional life. This is a great vehicle to interact and collaborate with other diagnostic professionals. Other valuable resources are NIOSH course training, the NBRC PFT credentialing exam, the NAECB AE-C credential, the AARC Asthma Educator Certification Preparation Course, and the COPD Educator Course, to name a few. These resources are great tools for building a strong foundation in pulmonary diagnostics.
What do you think the future holds for pulmonary diagnostics and why?
It’s a good time to be a diagnostician! Respiratory therapists play a critical role in heightening public health awareness and improving the management of pulmonary disease within our communities and our nation. Stay tuned!