For most RTs — and especially those in management — the words “The Joint Commission” are enough to cause a bout of indigestion. After all, the accreditation organization comes into facilities with an eye toward uncovering that which does not meet accreditation standards. So, it’s only natural for those going under the microscope to view the organization with some degree of angst.
But did you know respiratory therapists actually work for The Joint Commission (TJC) and its subsidiaries as well? They do, and Bryan Ellis, BS, RRT, RPSGT, CCSH, is a great example.
In this interview, he explains how and why he decided to supplement his ‘day job’ as a sleep lab owner with first a surveyor job with TJC and now a role as a Joint Commission Resources (JCR) consultant.
How long have you been an RT and what drew you to the field?
I started in RT in May 1980 as an OJT, working to pay for my undergraduate school in biology and chemistry. My original plan was two years of undergrad and then pharmacy school.
I got a job as an orderly for a year and then they wanted me in the RT department. After the first year, I decided to finish my degree and planned to apply for medical school. That RT job supported me during undergrad school. After completing my undergraduate degree, I then went to respiratory therapy school at Northwestern University. I’ve worked in teaching hospitals, neonatal and pediatric ICUs and transport, medium-sized hospitals, and small community hospitals in the last 38+ years.
Tell us a little about your full-time job.
My full-time job is that I own a sleep disorders center that performs sleep studies. We are a hybrid lab—in that we provide CPAPs and BiPAPs for those needing them in a clinic model, with clinical follow ups for these obstructive sleep apnea patients. We have owned the sleep lab since 2003.
When did you first go to work for The Joint Commission and how has your role changed over the years?
I worked part-time for TJC from May 2006 until September 2017 as a field surveyor in the HomeCare program. A field surveyor travels to organizations for their accreditation site visits, for validation visits against current JC standards towards accreditation.
Starting in September 2018 I moved to the Joint Commission Resources (JRC) side of the JC Enterprise System as a consultant for Home DME organizations and Sleep Lab organizations, consulting with these organizations to assist them in meeting quality and patient safety standards toward a successful TJC accreditation visit.
What led you to take on roles within the JC organization?
My lab was growing, and I was able to add staff. Sleep medicine is also quite narrow in its clinical focus. The surveyor role for TJC provided an opportunity for growth when I was surveying.
As a surveyor, I found there were about 12 other RTs who were part of the cadre, although we usually worked singularly on assignments in the U.S. In the JCR consultant role I am the only RT who provides a different ongoing relationship with our organizations. We assist in education, planning, and implementing strategies to assist the organization to meet standards. The consultant role has some limited international travel opportunities, as well as domestic travel in the U.S.
What requirements — education, experience, etc. — did you have to meet to get the job?
My undergraduate degree is in biology and chemistry and I continued to level with additional business courses during my career. Through my hospital roles in two different RT director positions, I was responsible for TJC compliance with applicable standards. I left the hospital arena and worked for a national durable medical equipment (DME) company for eight years. This gave me vast experience with TJC compliance and I enjoyed the process.
In my sleep lab business I am dual accredited in Ambulatory Care and in Home Care for the home medical equipment. During my first RT director’s position, the federal government’s diagnostic related groups, or DRGs, were dictating the development of different care arenas, and the home care industry emerged. Out of that our hospital department also provided home DME care with oxygen, CPAP, and neb meds. We were originally dealing with patient discharge and keeping them out of the hospital for possible readmissions.
What are your main job responsibilities at JRC?
As JCR consultants, we perform different programs and services to assist organizations toward having a successful TJC survey process. We often perform Mock Surveys, Focused Readiness Assessments, and other Continuous Service Readiness services based on the self-identified needs of the organization. I should note that although TJC and JCR are both under the umbrella of the JC Enterprise Business, there is a strong firewall between these business units. For the sake of the customer and organization, as JCR consultants our work is not shared with the Accreditation side of the business or vice-versa.
What are the main challenges and rewards of the job and why?
Travel to various domestic assignments is always a bit of a challenge. I have worked in Puerto Rico and had one international assignment to Qatar where travel was long. However, travel is also rewarding in that it provides new places to see — within the continental U.S., I’ve only not worked in six states. The biggest reward is educating and providing different strategies for these organizations to meet and ensure patient safety initiatives have meaning in their implementation of standards.
How has your background as an RT figured into your work at TJC and JCR, and what advice do you have for other RTs who might like to step out of traditional respiratory care to take on similar roles?
My experience in RT, DME, and sleep have provided a great amount of background to assist these organizations. Our training and experience provide us with many skills. Pay attention to areas of RT, and areas that parallel RT, and learn how things work. Pay attention to the regulatory, safety, and financial side of everything you do. These can provide you with some growth opportunities.