Anyone who has ever worked for a living has wondered whether they were being paid what they were worth. But asking for a raise is anxiety-producing at best. Can you go into your boss’s office and broach the topic? Respiratory care managers share their thoughts.
Adjustments can be made
According to Jim Valentine, CRT, respiratory care manager at Pomerene Hospital in Millersburg, OH, the answer is yes.
“Staff should be able to discuss financial issues, as well as any other issue of employment,” he said. Of course, he notes you might not like the answer — but that doesn’t mean it can’t be brought up.
“I think with most hospitals there are systems in place that address this, such as annual evaluations, engagement, and contributions, but occasionally adjustments may need to be made,” he said. When staff do approach him for a raise, those are the kind of issues he wants to see them address.
“If these are attributes that are displayed then I will go to bat for a raise,” he said, noting the CEO at his organization has the final word, but he has fought for increases for staff when he thought they were deserved.
Valentine’s advice for anyone seeking a raise —
- Up your game and performance, but don’t let the dissatisfaction of not getting the money you want effect your performance. Performance is recognized.
- I am not going to give you a raise just because you want one. Also don’t forget about the benefits. Sometimes staff just look at salary and forget to add up the benefits. You might be surprised when you look at them.
- Don’t ask for a raise if you have not done anything to set yourself apart from the others. When you do ask, be prepared to cite the extra things you’ve done.
Keith Hirst, MS, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, newborn respiratory manager at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, comes down on the opposite side of the question.
“No,” he said. “The majority of the time, pay raises are based on performance over the past year, and many hospitals set guidelines on how much a clinician can be compensated for.” He says at most of the hospitals he’s worked for in his career, pay was based on years of experience and often on additional credentials as well.
“You don’t want someone with fewer years of clinical experience making more than someone that has more years of experience,” he said. “It tends to lead to animosity and/or the appearance of favoritism within the department. It is much better if people are paid based on their years of experience.”
Of course, people will still ask, and if they do, here’s what he suggests —
- This really comes down to market analysis. If therapists at a hospital feel that they are being underpaid, they should make this request to the manager/director and then the manager/director would work with HR to do this and then make any adjustments needed.
- Hard evidence is the best. If they hear that a colleague is doing a similar job at another hospital for an increasing amount of pay, a letter or copy of a letter (with personal info marked out) would be helpful in making the case. Hearsay is very hard and is usually taken with a grain of salt.
Jack Fried, MS, BSRC, RRT, thinks it’s okay for a staff member to ask for a raise one time — but whether or not a manager can grant the request depends a lot on the hospital where they work.
“I cannot grant the request, nor have I ever been able to do so in 45 years as a director,” said Fried, who currently serves as director of respiratory care and neurodiagnostic services at St. Mark’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT.
He notes his current hospital will verify that people are in the right place on the pay scale though — the only one of five where he has served as director to do so — so, in his case, it doesn’t do any harm to ask HR to make sure the staff member is being properly credited for years of experience.
Here is what Fried believes RTs who do want to ask for a raise should do —
- Come with facts. There are too many times people come with false information that another hospital or system is offering a gazillion dollar bonus for one thing or another or that it has raised salaries substantially.
- Wage scales for government hospitals are easily accessible through Freedom of Information Acts.
- Third parties may not be able to report what a specific hospital pays, but they often have up-to-date information about wage scales in specific areas.
Getting to know you
Ron Stansell, RRT, agrees asking does no harm.
“After being a director for 20-plus years at a large facility, 900-plus beds, my answer is yes,” said the director of respiratory therapy and the sleep lab at Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, AL. “I’ve learned that it’s a great opportunity to better get to know the person and it leads to education for me as well as for them.”
In his experience, though, most people who do ask, don’t get what they came for.
“I seriously doubt that anyone would convince me to want to request a raise for one member of the department over another,” Stansell said. For that to happen, he’d have to see an overwhelming reason why.
“I would expect to see a humbled approach of facts and actions over a reasonable amount of time that far outweighs anyone else in the department,” he said.
His best advice —
- Humility goes a long way in setting the correct tone for the discussion.
- Base your request on research of the pay for RTs in the region and don’t make it a personal or family need.
Jeff Thompson, MBA, RRT, RRT-NPS, director of respiratory therapy, neurodiagnostics, and the sleep lab at Floyd Medical Center in Rome, GA, doesn’t mind if staff comes in and asks for a raise. But he wants them to realize he doesn’t have carte blanche authority to hand one out.
“I cannot just give raises, unless they have gotten additional credentials or reached a new level based on performance and those credentials,” he said.
He believes anyone thinking about asking should consider this approach —
- Come with data for me. I have to have your documentation of increased credentials and justification of a higher level, which calls for higher pay.
- I would frame the conversation as, how best can they help the department and the organization, and why they can, in terms of their education and higher clinical competency.
- I would avoid the “so and so makes this and I do not” type of conversation. I would focus on my relevance to the department.
Know the criteria
So, the consensus here is, sure, you can ask for a raise. But you might not receive it. And if you don’t, you should spend some time understanding what must go into your boss’s decision. Once you do, then you can begin working through the steps — such as gaining additional experience and/or education and credentials — needed to earn one.