How to Rock Your First Job in Respiratory Care

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May is a big month for college graduations, and if you’re one of the hundreds of RT students who will walk across a stage this month — literally or perhaps figuratively in this pandemic age — you are about to head out to your first job in respiratory care.

Making a great impression is undoubtedly your number one goal, but achieving that goal requires some careful thought. Jennifer Reed, BS, RRT, is the neonatal and pediatric respiratory manager and hiring manager for the RT department at the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU in Richmond, VA. She shares her insights in this interview —

The first days on a new job can be stressful for any recent grad. So what do you tell your first-time RTs about how they can make the most of them?

I tell them two things. One, not only is it your responsibility to learn here in your new role; it is your responsibility to teach. We have residents, interns, fellows, nursing students, etc. You have knowledge to impart even though you are a new grad. You need to feel comfortable jumping in and adding content to the conversation because your input matters. Watch how your different preceptors interact with the provider team and learn from the different styles and formulate a style that is comfortable to you.

Two, there is a difference between being competent and being comfortable. We will not allow you to perform patient care solo until you’ve been deemed competent, but you still may not be comfortable. There are still things I do today, and I have been a therapist many years, that I am not comfortable doing, but I am competent. If you can remember that, you can get through any procedure. Talk it through with another therapist to reassure yourself prior to performing the procedure, and you’ll find that you knew what to do all along — you just needed reassurance.

What do you believe are the 3-4 most important things a new RT should do on their first day, and why are these things most important?

First, be on time, professional, and ready to go. Second, ask questions, and ask questions from multiple disciplines. If you’d like to know about it, ask about it, if it is an appropriate time. Third, know that the first few weeks will be overwhelming. A lot of information will be thrown at you, from hospital orientation to departmental orientation, then on to unit-specific orientation. It’s okay. Take a deep breath and breathe. You aren’t the only one who has experienced this angst, and they survived too.

What do you think are the 3-4 most important things a new RT should avoid on day one to get off to a great start?

First, do not come in with a chip on your shoulder, and be ready to embrace the organizational standards, whatever they may be. Ours are STAR values — Safety, Teamwork, Accountability, Relationships, Service that shows I care. Second, be prepared. If you show up without your badge, no pen, wrong scrubs, disheveled, etc., that does not leave a good impression and is unprofessional. You are starting your career, and you need to present yourself in a professional manner.

Lastly, don’t shy away from opportunities. If your preceptor says we are going to go retape the room 142 ET tube, don’t pick that time to take your coffee or restroom break. Be assertive and ready to step in and provide care no matter how uncomfortable or scared you may be.

As Jennifer Reed suggests, first jobs come with many opportunities for success, but in order to make the most of those opportunities, new grads need to approach those jobs with some important concepts about the work ethic in mind. Following her tips can help you stand out in the minds of your new bosses and coworkers.