Climbing the Ladder

RT departments are made up largely of staff therapists who provide the bedside care patients need to treat their lung conditions.

In many cases, decisions about which of these staff members are worthy of moving up to a new position, or taking on a new responsibility, or even receiving a bonus or raise, are made solely at the discretion of the manager. But in some facilities, formal career ladders offer a framework for advancement.

Lori Green, BSRT, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, an RT at University of Utah Health, shared her department’s experience with a career ladder at AARC Congress 2018 in Las Vegas and she elaborates on that experience in this interview.

How did you get interested in career ladders and what was your role in helping your department set one up for respiratory care?

I got interested when I heard my department was working on a career ladder program. I was excited that it meant the possibility of more money for higher credentialing and wanted to make sure that the staff voice was heard. I wanted to make sure our ladder would cater to the interests of the staff, not necessarily what management wanted. I felt that if staff were already doing above and beyond our basic job description — i.e., sitting on committees, presenting at conferences, etc. — that it should count toward our career program. If it was something the staff were already excited about and doing, they should be rewarded for it. Our program, once up and running, truly became a staff driven/run program with management only providing final approval for things.

What are the major challenges RC departments face when they choose to set up a career ladder and why?

HR and management buy-in and approval of the program.

We went through many versions of our program before it went live and continued each year with adjustments recommend by HR and management. We also were unsure each year if the funding was going to be available, as ours was a bonus program and the funds were not always guaranteed.

Some of the staff didn’t see the value of the program, claiming “I can work X amount of OT shifts and make just as much money without jumping through all the hoops.” My claim back was, “I work just as much OT as you do and still get the bonus.”

What benefits accrue to departments that set up these ladders and why?

We had increased involvement in our department — more people sitting on more committees. There was an increase in morale in our department, as people who were doing more for the department finally felt valued. We also had a huge increase in the number of specialty credentials in our department, going from only a few with an NPS or ACCS to over a third of our department with a specialty credential. As of two years ago over half of the ACCS credentials in the state of Utah belonged to staff in our department. We now have at least four people in our department with both the RRT-ACCS and RRT-NPS credential as well.

People were also very excited about going to conferences and gaining continuing education. They then would bring that back and share with our department, raising the education level of our department as a whole.

The biggest value for me is feeling that my further education and credentialing is valued in my department. If we want to further our profession, it will take people getting extra education and credentialing, but if that is not valued in the workplace, people will not pursue it.

What are your top 5 tips for RTs on how to make the most of the career advancement opportunities available through their department’s career ladder program and why?

  1. Be involved. Bring ideas to the table to help develop/improve your program.
  2. Don’t be afraid to push yourself. I feel I’m a better therapist because of the confidence and education that has come through further education and credentialing.
  3. Be proud of our profession and the things we can do collectively as RTs. The more we know, the better we become!
  4. Seek out educational opportunities. Continuing education opportunities, outside the minimum for maintaining licenses, should be a vital part of any career ladder program.
  5. Have a passion for the work you do. This passion can turn into ways to effectively navigate a career ladder.