In most places, your CRT credential is your entry into practice. Your RRT credential identifies you as an advanced level practitioner.
However, in several niche areas of the profession, those credentials alone will only take you so far. In order to move up the ranks, you need specialty credentials as well.
Four AARC Specialty Section chairs explain why in this Q&A —
People working in your area of specialization have the opportunity to earn one or more specialty credentials. Why should they do it?
Adult Acute Care Section Chair Keith Lamb, BS, RRT-ACCS, FCCM: Earning the Adult Critical Care Specialist, or ACCS, credential accomplishes a couple of things. Firstly, it shows a level of commitment to the specialty. It shows that whomever is taking the exam is committed to providing the highest level of care possible. Secondly, it is a way to ensure that an acceptable level of knowledge is achieved by those wishing to practice in such a specialized area.
Diagnostics Section Chair Katrina Hynes, MHA, RRT, RPFT: As a servant leader and investor in future health care leaders, I continuously seek out top talent to build my leadership bench. Such candidates are those who have chosen to stand out above the rest and invest in obtaining advanced credentials. The individual who is willing to dedicate himself and make personal sacrifices to ensure the highest level of patient care is one worth investing in.
Neonatal-Pediatric Section Chair Steve Sittig, RRT-NPS, FAARC: As with many other medical specialties, the need to demonstrate advanced, specialized knowledge is an increasing component of today’s practitioners. Obtaining advanced credentials validates the specialty knowledge of the practitioner beyond just years of clinical experience.
Sleep Section Chair Kate Turner, BSRT, RRT: More credentialing and education to deepen RT capability in more areas allows more opportunity clinically in the workforce. It expands your RT degree to allow more specialization to maximize potential and desirability compared to an RT without the extra credentialing.
How do you think having the specialty credential(s) for your area of specialization helps RTs land jobs in the area?
Keith Lamb: In certain parts of the country, and this changes, RT jobs are scarce. Decision-makers look for the aforementioned level of commitment and knowledge in their potential staff members, particularly in today’s reimbursement climate, where a higher level of care is expected and the prevention of readmissions is paramount.
Katrina Hynes: On the day of graduation, the expectation for every respiratory therapist is that you have mastered the fundamentals of mechanical ventilation, can accurately check breath sounds, can administer aerosolized medications, and can function independently as a member of the intensive care team. Through my experiences in traveling to pulmonary function laboratories throughout the U.S., I have learned that very few have a strong foundation in pulmonary diagnostics come graduation day. Often the existence of a specialty credential is the deciding factor between similarly qualified applicants.
Steve Sittig: One need only read current job postings to see specialty credentials are now almost required to apply for today’s jobs in neonatal-pediatric RT. Employers are looking for validated advanced knowledge in new employees, which is demonstrated by obtaining the Neonatal-Pediatric Specialist, or NPS, credential.
Kate Turner: The world of sleep medicine continues to grow, as one out of three men and one out of five woman has some form of sleep disordered breathing or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). There are sleep labs associated with most every hospital now, and if you are working a combination of hospital and sleep lab/home care, additional credentials allow familiarity with challenges accompanying OSA patients.
How does the absence of these specialty credential(s) make it harder for therapists to work in your particular area of specialization?
Keith Lamb: Earning the ACCS assists the staff RT in developing rapport and confidence with other critical care team members. Not having this credential may make it more difficult in terms of this development, and working relationships can suffer.
Katrina Hynes: A respiratory therapist who enters into pulmonary diagnostics without prior experience or specialized education in said area will require significantly more supervision and training. The increased training time could have a negative impact on both patient care and the department’s bottom line. Entering the area with a specialized credential will greatly reduce the time under the curve.
Steve Sittig: As I said before, employers want new employees to have an advanced knowledge base versus what may have been learned in the past through many years of clinical practice. Those without the NPS credential may not even be considered for today’s clinical positions.
Kate Turner: In home care the credentials required to set up sleep disordered breathing devices, noninvasive ventilation, cough assist, and other DME pieces are only a CRT or RRT, but a sleep credential is required to accompany an RT license for an individual to manage, monitor, and treat patients at a sleep lab. This not only allows them to perform the overnight sleep study but also score the study before it is read by a sleep diplomat.
The NBRC offers specialty credentials in adult critical care, neonatal-pediatrics, pulmonary diagnostics, and sleep. The Board of Registered Polysomnographic Technologists offers a sleep credential as well.