Everyone wants a job with good benefits — but what constitutes “good benefits” is different for different people. We asked AARC members to tell us which benefits they value the most and why.
Marie Agustin, RRT cites the health insurance, including drug coverage, that she receives for herself and her family as the top benefit she gets on the job.
“I had previously worked for another facility for 30 years, and there were employee premiums and copays and there were no post-retirement health benefits offered whatsoever,” she said.
She also values advanced education and professional programs and opportunities, which she says include diversity and inclusivity programs. She greatly appreciates the generous retirement pension plan she receives.
“A lot of other organizations have scrapped their programs and offer only employee-contributions via 401K and the like,” Agustin said.
As a member of her hospital’s Contract Negotiating Team for several years now, Carolyn Williams, RRT, has gone to bat for the kind of benefits front-line workers like RTs want to have and says she’s proud to have achieved at least some of them. For example, employees with 30 years of service or more at her Washington, DC, facility only work one weekend a month, essentially meaning they work 12 weekends per year rather than the typical 26.
The hospital also offers partial reimbursement for attendance at national, regional, and local conferences, something she says she fought hard for. “Professional development reimbursement does not cover a complete national Congress, but it is a big help,” Williams said.
One benefit that has been high on her list but has yet to be achieved is no holidays for senior staff.
“Employees with 30 years or more of service should not have to work any holidays,” she said. “Anyone with 30 years or more has worked their fair share.”
Nearing retirement age
Debbie Koehl, MS, RRT, AE-C, FAARC, says the top three benefits on her list are health insurance that includes medical, dental, and vision coverage, vacation time, and retirement benefits.
The Indiana therapist believes these are the benefits that have the most impact on her life, especially now that she is approaching retirement.
“Staying healthy and having insurance is needed; and being able to have various plans to select from is important,” she said. “I have tried to impart this wisdom to the younger and newer employees to think about the future.”
At any age, time off is important, and she appreciates having enough days off to rest, relax, and reenergize.
“We have a PTO program which includes sick time, so I am often able to use it however I would like,” she said, although in her opinion, tying PTO to sick time isn’t the best idea. “You don’t want people to abuse the system, but you also don’t want truly ill people to be at work. I think we are getting smarter about this through our flu seasons and now especially with our COVID-19 pandemic.”
In fact, the one thing that is lacking in her current benefit package is more actual vacation time for senior workers like herself.
“I have been with my organization for so long, I have maxed out on the hours I can accumulate yearly . . . seniority should be considered with some added days!” she said.
Bob Fritz, MEd, RRT, RN, CCM, is nearing retirement too — about 1-3 years out at this point — so he really appreciates the matching contributions his facility makes to his 403-b, plus the retirement planning services it provides to help ensure he is maximizing growth. “I recommend the younger RTs invest early and as much as possible for their retirement,” said the Oklahoma therapist.
Over the years, tuition reimbursement has been invaluable to him too, allowing him to grow his skillset and marketability at little or no cost.
“My ASRT, BSN, and MEd degrees were all paid for by hospital employers, as well as the credential testing and credential specialty pay,” he said. “I’ve always felt that by not using tuition reimbursement, I was in essence wasting a benefit.”
At this point in his career, though, he is also thankful for having a schedule that fits his lifestyle.
“I’ve put in my time on the nightshift and 12- and 10-hour shifts. An 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. schedule works best for me,” Fritz said.
It’s not all about money
Aaron Shepherd, MHA, RRT, believes most therapists would cite monetary benefits as being important to them, and he doesn’t disagree. He works as a respiratory therapy manager and says his organization offers some nice sign-on incentives that include a relocation bonus and tuition reimbursement or retention bonus.
But that said, he believes it’s the working environment that many of his employees value the most.
“One of the biggest non-monetary incentives that our therapists really appreciate here are our respiratory therapist driven protocols, which allow the RTs to really ‘practice their craft’ and function at the top of their license,” Shepherd said. “Having autonomy and the opportunity to learn and grow seems to really speak to certain people just as much as monetary incentives.”
Jon Inkrott, RRT, RRT-ACCS, agrees that bonuses are important — at his hospital in Florida, annual bonuses have been paid every year, except for this one, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But he too appreciates the professional development perks he gets from his department.
“Whether it’s presenting at conferences, or participating in them, or pursuing your bachelor’s or master’s, my employer has always supported its staff,” Inkrott said. “I, as well as my teammates, have never worried about being supported in our endeavors when it comes to pursuing further education or keeping up to date with current evidence-based care by attending a local, national, or international conference.”
What is missing, continues the therapist, is a clinical ladder for RTs. He believes clinical ladders promote engagement in state and national organizations, and by providing financial incentives, they encourage therapists to meet goals that are important to the department.
“There is no reason we shouldn’t have it, as the nurses do,” Inkrott said. “This is a glaring issue and one I hope is remedied in the near future.”
A range of perks
The health savings account offered by her Florida hospital means a lot to Kenyatta Nwako, RRT.
“I do not have any major illness that would require me to spend the money,” she said.
“This will be a nice benefit when I retire or get older and need money for health needs.”
Her hospital also provides employees with identity theft protection, and she likes the assurance it gives her that she and her family will be safe from harm. “[It] allows me to secure mine and my family’s identity on everything from social media to my bank accounts and health insurance,” Nwako said.
Robert B. Johnson, MS, RRT, is a manager of respiratory care, bronchoscopy, and PFT at a teaching hospital in Alabama. He is eligible for a “teacher’s retirement,” which he really appreciates.
“It is an annuity that depends on years worked and your last five years’ salary,” he said. “It’s not dependent on the economy or the stock market.”
Employees at his facility also receive a pretax debit card to use for health care expenses, and they are able to choose from four different health insurance plans, two different vision plans, and two different dental plans, making it possible for them to find the right fit.
One thing he would like to see added to the list of benefits at his hospital is 24-hour, onsite daycare just for the hospital staff.
“We have a new on-campus daycare, but it’s not 24 hours and space is still limited,” Johnson said.
Good place to be
Clearly, therapists value different benefits. But as these RTs show, most RT jobs come with the kind of benefits that RTs do believe are important to them and their families. And that’s the benefit of choosing a field where opportunities abound!