Is It Time to Move On?


by Adrienne Trzonkowski, MSM, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS

Circa 2003 or 2004. I am a respiratory therapy student at Delaware Technical and Community College in Wilmington. I am in rounds in the pediatric ICU at Nemours AI DuPont Hospital for Children with my preceptor for the day, Joel Brown, MSM, RRT. Casually talking about professional goals, I remember telling him, “I will never work in pediatrics.”

Circa 2020, after about 15 years in adult critical care, I find myself finishing a 12-hour shift in the PICU at Nemours AI DuPont Hospital for Children. Funny where life takes you, but truth is, I couldn’t be happier.

Change was in order

“Don’t fear failure, fear being in the exact same place you are today.” I read this quote to myself many times.

I was an RT at the top of her career ladder, had obtained a masters in science degree, became credentialed in adult critical care, was involved in numerous hospital-wide committees, was able to walk down the hallways and know everyone I walked by personally, and absolutely loved what I was doing. But I still felt empty. I knew I needed to make a change.

I am lucky to live near one of the best children’s hospitals on the East Coast, and after many conversations with fellow RTs, friends, and mentors, I finally took the leap and applied.

Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is to dig deep and face your fears. I am not a mother, and pediatrics has always scared me. Honestly, it still does. What scares me more is being where I was two years ago, stagnant, frustrated, and empty.

A humbling experience

The past year and a half have been nothing but rewarding. I have met some of the most incredibly smart RTs in the business. To say this has been one of the most humbling experiences would be an understatement.

I ask questions every day and learn something new every day. I find myself Googling disease processes, surgical procedures, and pediatric viruses and illnesses on a daily basis. Truth is, it’s ok. I have to keep reminding myself they are not little adults, they are children.

Today, I find myself bringing past experiences, successes, failures, and ideas to tables filled with new and welcoming faces. Yes, I am put in situations that challenge me, but I persevere and am proud of myself once they are over. I have a mentor, someone who checks in on me and keeps me focused. Finding a mentor who is invested in your success is one of my biggest recommendations, no matter what RT role you are in.

In the right place

I look back on where I thought I would be at this stage of my career and I am just starting to realize I am right where I should be. I am learning, I am involved, and I am thankful for my past that brought me to where I am today. My goals may have changed but my determination to be my own best RT have not.

I know I am not unique in this situation. We work in a profession where the sky is the limit. Respiratory care can take you into research, sales, rehabilitation, education, management, adult and pediatric care, and so much more. Believe in yourself, face your fears, and take the leap.

Adrienne Trzonkowski is president of the Delaware Society for Respiratory Care.

Do you have an interesting career-related story to tell? Sum it up in 1000 words or less and send it to heather.willden@aarc.org and we’ll consider it for an upcoming edition of Career News.