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Let’s say you love where you work now. It’s close to home, the people are nice, and the pay and benefits are great. But you’d really like to move up the ladder, and despite the fact that you’ve gotten good performance reviews, so far you haven’t been tapped by your managers when they went looking to promote from within.
What does it take to grab their attention and make them choose you for the next leadership position that becomes available? Members of the AARC’s Leadership & Management Section have some great advice.
Be a team player
Todd Cox, RRT-ACCS, says he looks for RTs who have a strong work ethic, strong character, excellent communication skills, and a proven ability to be a team player. “I need for each of my RTs to have the confidence to do their job and to do it without hesitation,” he says. “They also need to work well with others because we rely on teamwork to take care of our patients.”
“I look for RTs with initiative to take matters into their own hands,” says Jackie Wilson, MPH, RRT. “They should be accountable for their actions.” She also wants to see a hunger in the RT to do great things for the department, and work ethic and character are important as well. People who are viewed as “drivers” on the teams they serve on stand out from the crowd, and communication skills are key.
Being mentally there for patients at all times is important to Charles Gaos, RRT-NPS. By that he means not just providing competent care but also looking out for the patient and family’s others needs as well — even something as simple as going to get the patient a cup of water or helping him dial the phone. RTs who see things that could be improved in the department and bring them to his attention, and those who work well with other disciplines, improve their chances for promotion too. “Be a part of the hospital team,” says Gaos, “not just, ‘I am an RT.’”
“I personally am always looking for someone to help strategize practice and to help me stay current with practice guidelines,” says Andrea Scott, RRT. “Our realm is wide and our resources are limited, so in order to be meaningful and useful we need to have more associates engaged in reading literature and discussing findings.” To her, promotable RTs are those who have an earnest desire to perform as part of a goal-oriented team and can think outside the box when necessary.
Wes Andrews, MA, RRT, is impressed by RTs who show initiative, possess a compelling vision for the profession, demonstrate a constant desire to learn new things, and contribute to the department in important and innovative ways. Showing that you care about your patients matters to him as well. “Our craft requires us to be compassionate professionals that practice the science of respiratory therapy,” he says. “Impressive therapists have a unique gift of compassion and their patients know it.”
Lead without being asked
Mary Lou Guy, MBA, RRT, is impressed by therapists who show they can get things done without direct supervision, ask questions when they don’t know the answer, demonstrate positive behaviors, and possess good communications skills. They understand that “every day, every minute is an interview for the next job.”
The ability to think critically tops the list for Jeff Thompson, MBA, RRT-NPS. “We are the experts and need to act like we are and speak out about what we think the patient needs based on the latest research and best practices,” he says. “If you become a neb jockey at my facility you are going to get an opportunity to be successful elsewhere!”
For Scott Reistad, RRT, CPFT, FAARC, the most promotable RT is the RT who is already leading the way for his or her coworkers. “I am looking for the ‘informal’ leader who staff already look up to for information, questions, and guidance,” he says. “Just because someone has a title does not mean that they are able to lead.” That quality is often more important to him than more traditional factors that managers may take into consideration when seeking out an employee for promotion, like years of experience or education/credentials.
Julien Lewiecki, MSA, RRT, agrees. “One important aspect is the person’s clinical expertise and how well they perform with their job duties,” he says. “These are staff that other staff go to when they have questions — the ‘informal leaders,’ so to speak.” Lewiecki says these RTs remain calm when the going gets tough, they aren’t afraid to speak out in meetings and offer constructive opinions, they seek out additional duties and never grumble when asked to work overtime, and they are engaged in their work. “They are there to make a difference in people’s lives and not just there to collect a paycheck,” says the manager.
Being ready, willing, and able to do what needs to be done to make things better in the department makes a difference for Ruth Karales, BS, RRT, too. “I have many offering to tell me what is wrong and how to fix it, but few dive in and work on the fix and see it to completion,” she says. “Leaders lead without being asked!”