Is a Residency Right for You?

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Nearly all respiratory care departments require new employees to go through an orientation to ensure they understand the policies and procedures in place in their facilities. This is especially important for new grads, who are stepping into the RT role for the first time.

Would a more intense orientation help new RTs excel on the job faster than they otherwise might? RT departments that have developed residency programs for new grads coming on board in their hospitals would say yes.

Shawna Murray, MHS, RRT, CHC, has been involved in a residency program for RTs at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, and she believes it gives the new therapists who take part in it a huge leg up in their careers.

Help with onboarding

“A residency is intended to help onboard educated clinicians to the specifics of the organization and patient populations,” said Murray, a clinical services education manager in the organization.

New RTs who go through the program not only come out of it with a better comfort level when it comes to the organization’s policies and practices, simulations that take place as part of the residency give them a chance to experience some low volume/high risk situations in a safe environment as well.

“Residency participants will have the opportunity to experience things that may not come up very often, in the safety of the simulation environment,” Murray said.

At Intermountain Healthcare, the residency takes place over several weeks, with one session per week. In addition to the simulations, the program includes presentations, instruction on equipment hand offs, and other key aspects of the orientation process. But unlike the typical orientation, which is usually more task-oriented, the residency gives Murray and her colleagues the chance to dig deeper with their new hires. Nowhere is that truer than with respiratory care protocols.

“I think that the residency is a great place to teach the rationale behind protocols,” says Murray. “In the clinical environment the clinician might be introduced to the protocol and they are expected to do. But, in the residency session, we can bring in experts that can teach a little bit about where the protocol came from, what need drove the development of the protocol, and why it matters.”

She believes the additional insights help new clinicians use protocols more effectively because now they have a better understanding of why they have been deemed best practice in their facility.

“Residency class sessions in our organization teach the basics of our organization’s protocols so that clinicians can get up to speed quickly and feel comfortable using the tools that we have available to them,” she said.

Not one-size-fits-all

Getting a residency program off the ground can be a challenge, and Murray admits that while the program at Intermountain Healthcare has worked well at the main hospital in Salt Lake City and other larger facilities in the system, rolling it out in some of their smaller outlying hospitals has been more of a challenge.

“We haven’t been as successful as I’d like in scaling it to be used everywhere, but at our largest facilities we have a residency program that has been extremely helpful in onboarding new clinicians to their role,” she said.

Deciding how to organize the program takes some thought too.

Some residency programs around the country are carried out in conjunction with RT educational programs, but the program at Intermountain Healthcare is a standalone operation. According to Murray, that has worked well for her organization.

She suggests RT departments that would like to develop residency programs of their own work with the learning and development or clinical education departments in their hospitals to bring the idea to fruition. Getting the multidisciplinary team involved can help move the concept along too.

“There are many opportunities for collaboration with nursing and other disciplines, especially for simulations,” Murray said. “We are always looking for ways to develop more interdisciplinary educational opportunities that benefit RT and our other clinicians.”

Worth considering

So, if you are getting ready to graduate from your RT program, consider seeking out residency opportunities as you search for your first job in the profession.

If you work in an RT department that could benefit from the creation of a residency program, reach out to RT educators and managers on the AARConnect Education and Leadership and Management discussion lists for great advice on how to get started.