My name is Aubree, and I am a current second-year student from Sioux City, IA. I am only one semester away from entering the workforce. I imagine that even during regular times and the best of circumstances, it is scary to be at this point in your schooling. However, during these pandemic times, it is nerve-wracking to look ahead. Fortunately, I have had a lot of guidance along the way.
One of the best decisions I made when starting RT school was joining the AARC! One of my professors pushed the idea of joining, so I decided that it could be another excellent tool for furthering myself in my chosen field.
Membership builds confidence in my career choice
Being an AARC student member has been one of the best decisions. One of my favorite member benefits is getting emails about all the available jobs around the country. Getting these emails has allowed me never to feel worried about getting a job after graduating because I could go anywhere, and there would most likely be a job available.
This past November, I took part in the House of Delegates meeting as a student member. Due to the current pandemic, we took part in the meeting virtually.
Within the first few minutes of joining the first call, I felt so welcomed.
Everybody I met was energetic and passionate about being a respiratory therapist. Even during a pandemic with overwhelmed hospitals, these individuals from across the country are still so in love with what they do. This was a refreshing, and reassuring experience. For anyone considering becoming an AARC member, I strongly suggest it! There are so many opportunities to grow, thanks to the AARC.
Being a College Student During a Pandemic
Being a student during this time has been challenging. Yet, I have learned so much that I can take into my career because of this pandemic. I realized that I need to be flexible with whatever comes my way and that I need to be willing to switch everything that I know to help others.
I had no idea how hard it was for me, as a student, to learn online. With school going online in March, I began to cherish the time I studied at school. When at home, I faced many distractions, including family, pets, and a warm comfy bed. Every day ran into one, and I became best friends with my planner and calendar on my phone to help remind me of important due dates and meetings.
After finishing the semester online, we returned to school for clinical rotations and lab in May for the summer semester. I was extremely grateful for the chance to be back at school and clinical and to be able to learn hands-on again.
Something else that online learning taught me was how much I love interacting with others.
Having this time stuck at home, aside from going to work, confirmed that I wouldn’t want a job where I was by myself or not interacting with other humans. It gave me clarity in picking a career in health care.
Starting a Career in Respiratory During a Pandemic
I have been able to work as a student respiratory technician while going to school. When working, I can perform any skills that I have learned in school up to that point. So, I started with the basics of doing nebulizers and other small things, and I have slowly moved up to help with the more critical patients in the ICU. Having this job has allowed me to get more comfortable with COVID-19 and being in a hospital setting. I have developed some essential skills of time management and how to remain calm in an emergency.
Another thing that I have realized during the coronavirus pandemic is how important respiratory therapists are. Seeing how COVID-19 affects each individual and how we are there to treat them and hopefully see them succeed has opened my eyes. I have gained immense respect for all health care workers, but I have also seen how important I will be as an RT.
We are in direct care with patients. And, while current visitor restrictions still remain in effect, we are the surrogate family for our patients. Showing compassion with my patients gives us both joy, especially when these patients are at their sickest.
Anytime you finish something and begin to start something new can be intimidating. During these next few months, I plan to focus on school and studying for my board exams, but I also plan to scope out all my options for jobs once graduating. It has been more challenging to get into hospitals for tours or to attend clinical, but I plan to take every opportunity to call RT departments to check out all my options.
Advice to future RT students
There is so much I could share. I received a lot of advice and different opinions before and while in school, so I know how overwhelming it can be. I suggest listening and taking it all in. Then choose what you think is best when you encounter each situation.
When asked, all of my classmates recommend taking all your general education classes needed for school before starting the RT program. This education path gives you much-needed time to focus on respiratory studies rather than available courses.
Another thing that we, as RT students, suggest, is getting some patient contact hours. Becoming a CNA or EMT, something in the health care field that will help develop the skills needed to care for patients, even in high-stress times.
Some other options to get a foot in the door are being a hostess or waiter at a local nursing home or working in the hospital’s kitchen. Gaining this experience will give you a feel for how the hospital works and will allow you to develop the skills needed to care for a patient.
One experience that I will always remember is shadowing a current RT before I even started school. This particular visit allowed me to see what day-to-day life is while working in the hospital. With COVID-19, these opportunities are not as available, but try to find a local RT and call them or meet with them to talk about what they do at work.
If I could tell you anything, it would be to believe in yourself. I know that sounds cheesy, but before going to RT school, I didn’t have the self-confidence and comfortability in my skin that I have now. I now know I am capable of way more than I had ever imagined and you are too!
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