Leadership Potential: The Research Connection

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Respiratory care is a profession that runs on best practices, and there is no better way to nurture your leadership skills than by getting actively involved in the clinical research required to ensure evidence based practice (EBP) for patients. Three AARC members who have taken that step explain why.

Off and running

Denise Lauderbaugh, MPH, BSRC, RRT, RRT-NPS, is a clinical practice specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, CA. Early on in her career she worked with what she calls “some pretty renowned researchers” and had the opportunity to help them with their data collection. But she never imagined she would one day be able to conduct studies of her own.

The idea that it might be possible first dawned on her when she decided to attend an evidence-based practice institute and implement an evidence-based practice in her facility.

“That led me to a curiosity on what to do if I could not find the evidence to support what we were currently doing, or a change that was being requested,” Lauderbaugh said. “With the help of some funding, I was off on this crazy journey.”

She earned her master’s degree along the way too, which greatly facilitated the achievement of a career goal — namely, to be the person in her department responsible for overseeing all EBP, quality improvement (QI), and research projects related to respiratory care.

Lauderbaugh has published papers in RESPIRATORY CARE and authored a number of abstracts as well, and she says conducting research is addictive because the results so often have a direct impact on the care that is provided to patients in her hospital and elsewhere.

“Once I found that my research changed practice, with a statistically significant improvement in patient care, I was hooked,” she said. “The utilization of my RT skills combined with my new skills gives me great career satisfaction.”

Success breeds success

A clinical coordinator at the University of Virginia Medical Center in Charlottesville, Dan Rowley, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, RPFT, FAARC, has published several papers and a wealth of abstracts in peer review journals over his long career, many of them appearing RESPIRATORY CARE.

He traces his long association with clinical research back to 1998.

“My medical director encouraged respiratory therapists to question the effectiveness of therapies that we provide to our patients and to support our suppositions with peer reviewed health sciences literature,” he said. “This set the tone for how I would discipline myself as a clinician, and as a result I conceptualized my first research project, looking at experience with a respiratory therapist arterial cannulation service.”

That quality improvement project resulted in his first OPEN FORUM presentation and a full manuscript publication in RESPIRATORY CARE. He met other researchers during the experience and was able to quickly expand his professional networking community. Those connections spurred his desire to continue to explore his research interests, and enrolling in graduate school gave him the tools he needed to formulate research questions, select statistical tests to help answer those questions, and report the findings.

“This dynamic process of networking, commitment to learning, and willingness to recognize that research is not always easy has elevated my confidence as a respiratory therapy researcher and effectiveness as a research mentor to others,” Rowley said. “It’s not just one thing that keeps me coming back for more, but it’s the process, knowledge exchange, and mutual encouragement offered within the respiratory care research community that I enjoy so much.”

The leadership skills he has gained in the process have played a key role in his career advancement and his career satisfaction as well.

“Because of research, I have been able to see much of the United States, interact with many outstanding health care providers at meetings, participate in the development of clinical practice guideline development, and travel the world to share my knowledge and experiences with others while always remembering why this journey of commitment is most important to me — to improve patient care,” he said.

Sparking an interest

Krystal Craddock, MSRC, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, CCM, clinical operations manager in the department of respiratory care at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, CA, got her start in clinical research through QI projects in her facility that looked at length of stay and readmission reductions and trends for COPD patients.

She was a COPD case manager at the time, and those initiatives sparked a greater interest in finding out how the implementation of clinical interventions improve patient symptoms and how COPD phenotypes relate to management strategies and symptom outcomes. She enjoys studying how population health strategies can improve outcomes for people with COPD as well.

Today she coordinates her department’s involvement in multicenter trials, as well as patient population-based RT strategies such as trauma and extubation management. She loves getting her colleagues involved in these research projects too. Since embarking on respiratory care research, she has published abstracts with the AARC, CHEST, and the American Thoracic Society. The latter study looked at COPD case management led by RTs.

Now she’s taking it to the next level.

“I have a drafted manuscript I hope to get accepted describing respiratory care integration in the outpatient care of COPD patients and improved symptom scores of these managed patients,” Craddock said.

She believes her work in research demonstrates her leadership skills to those she works with in her department and her hospital.

“My favorite part of respiratory care is educating and mentoring,” Craddock said. “Bringing others along in your research and helping others find satisfaction in this aspect of our profession is really fulfilling and motivates me to do more for my team, for our profession, and most importantly, for our patients we care for.”

A path worth considering

The path to leadership in respiratory care heads in many different directions. If you are interested in playing a role in establishing evidence-based care for your patients, the research path may be just what you are looking for. You can learn much more about what it takes to get into respiratory care research and network with proven researchers in the profession by joining the AARC’s Research Community on AARConnect.