They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But truth is, change is hard no matter how old you are. If you don’t believe it, just try offering a pancake and an orange to a two-year-old who has already decided the only thing he can ever eat for breakfast is a waffle and a banana and see how far you get.
In a profession like respiratory care, though, resisting change is not really an option — if you want to get ahead in your career. Susan Wynn, MSM, BSBA, BSRT, RRT, decided to embrace change early on in her career and she explains why you should too.
In Wynn’s case, some of the biggest hurdles she has had to cross centered around the need to advance her education and credentials. When she first enrolled in a certificate-only program back in 1981, on-the-job trainees were still common in her home state of Indiana. Slowly but surely, however, things began to change, most notably with the passage of licensure in Indiana in 1990. It’s only snowballed since, and she has rolled right along with the times.
“I have seen a lot of change over the years, but mostly in the progression of the profession — OJTs to certification program graduates getting the CRT, to AS RRTs, to BSRTs becoming more and more common,” said Wynn, who manages respiratory care and sleep services at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour, IN. “I was required to get my BS for my director job in the 1990s and my master’s degree in the 2000s.”
Most recently, she went back to school to get her BSRT, something she felt was important to set an example for her staff and align with AARC expectations.
“I keep telling my staff I believe it will be required at some point in their careers,” Wynn said.
It seems to be working. This past year, four of her 15 FTEs signed up for BSRT programs. She believes those who are willing to go that extra mile deserve the respect and admiration of their peers. They are more likely to move up the career ladder as well.
“Embracing this change requires work, self-discipline, and drive,” Wynn said. “All traits that directors look for when promotions become available.”
Of course, change comes in many other forms too, and that’s been true for her department as well. Wynn shared one recent example.
“We have been allowed to be involved in trying some inventive things that include RTs in our organization to assist with decreasing COPD readmissions,” she explained.
Specifically, her department now provides a free service to nursing homes in the county wherein RTs go out and visit patients after they are released from the hospital to provide care and education aimed at preventing another admission.
While the program has been very effective, not everyone jumped on board. Wynn says staff who did are making a big difference in their outlook for career advancement.
“There were those who enthusiastically accepted it and worked to make it a success by suggesting changes, going without complaint, and being positive about the program and how it benefitted the patients and the organization,” she said. “It was those driver RTs who were rewarded with more responsibility, promotion, and employment options — those are the RTs who are sought out for advice from doctors, nurses, and social workers, and who are more successful people overall.”
The right way
Wynn has this great advice for RTs who want to deal with change the right way, whether it be a new service that’s being implemented in their department or new educational and/or credentialing expectations—
- Ask questions about the goals proposed to be accomplished. It is fair to want more information. However, it should be done in a positive way, not implying negativity.
- Make sure you are clear on understanding the potential outcomes to help the change succeed.
- Make sure you make the decision to be “for” the change so you can support it and give it every chance to succeed.
- Find out how to express concerns or suggest changes that may come to mind after the change is made — to determine if there is flexibility in processes or not and to present them in a constructive/appropriate manner.
- Then, constructively give feedback on suggestions you may have to make the change even better. Be willing to make the suggestions, knowing there may be reasons your suggestions may not be possible.
- Appreciate that someone had the faith in you to accept the challenge for change — they must have seen something in you that they thought was worth putting effort into by allowing you to be a part of the change.
Being the therapist who embraces change is the key to becoming a leader in the profession, says Wynn.
“Positive people who can see the big picture and accept change are those people chosen for advancement and opportunity — and usually more monetary compensation,” she said. “Negativity — an unwillingness to change — has no place in leadership.”