Why Managers are Looking for Engaged Therapists (And How You Can Become One)

garry-kauffman-engaged-therapistGarry Kauffman

Maybe you’ve seen the word in a job advertisement. Or in an article about the keys to success in the 21st century job market. Or even on AARConnect or LinkedIn discussions.

The word is “engaged” and that’s what today’s managers are looking for in their employees. What does it mean?

According to AARC member Garry Kauffman, MPA, RRT, FAARC, who will speak at length on the topic in a presentation titled “Employee Engagement – The Key to Your Success as a Leader” at AARC Congress 2015 in Tampa, an engaged employee is one who is truly invested in his job, his facility, and his career.

You need to own it

Kauffman likes to use the terms “renter” and “owner” to explain what he means by “engaged.” “My observations are that those who rent or lease something – for example a car – are not as engaged in the transaction. They are not incentivized to accelerate properly, not slam on the brakes, change the oil, check tire pressure, wash and wax, because the contract with the rental/lease company doesn’t require that level of engagement.”

As a case in point, he asks this question: When have you ever heard anyone say, “Drive it like you rent it”?

People who take ownership of something, however, bump their engagement in that something up to a whole new level. “Engaged staff are like many ‘owners,’ in that they have a greater sense of commitment to the success of their shift, their department, and their organization.”

Go the extra mile

What are some good examples of engagement in respiratory care? Kauffman says therapists who are engaged can show that they’ve done more than is required in their jobs. “There are a host of great RTs that do a fantastic job at the bedside and in leadership, education, etc., every day, and this is to be commended,” he says. “However, since being a great RT with your assigned responsibilities should be something that everyone does, what I’m looking for is that ‘extra’ to help us make a hiring decision.”

For the recent grad that could mean anything from having served as a class officer, to volunteering to help out at a COPD support group meeting, to performing PFTs at the state capital or local mall during RC Week. For experienced RTs, he looks for activities like publishing RT-related articles, presenting a poster at the AARC Congress or other meeting, or taking part in community service events.

What if you can’t point to any of these types of activities right now? Don’t despair, says Kauffman, but do remedy the situation by getting more actively involved. “My advice is start small and start today.” Write an article for your department’s newsletter, volunteer to serve on a performance improvement team, help out with the local pulmonary support group, or even offer to assist your manager in creating the schedule or organizing departmental supplies.

Maintaining your AARC membership counts for something too, because most managers will look upon membership as indication that you are serious about the profession.

Word to the wise

But one caveat: no matter what you decide to do to stand out from the crowd, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons (and that means not just trying to promote yourself to your boss or the hiring manager). “Keeping the focus on helping the team and organization as the first priority is, in my experience, the best way to demonstrate your value as an engaged therapist,” says Kauffman.