Encouraging Words for the Class of 2020


If you’re a new grad embarking on your first real job in respiratory care during these uncertain times, you are probably wondering how you will be able to take the initial steps in building a career that will last you a lifetime while at the same time coping with the challenges of a pandemic.

Your fellow AARC members welcome you to the profession and encourage you to rise to the challenge. Here is their best advice for the class of 2020 —

I would say three very important things came to my mind as we entered into the pandemic. One is to read, and read, and try to stay current. This habit of reading, and learning, and keeping up with new, emerging information is especially important during COVID times, but it’s also important during normal times too. Two, don’t be afraid to discuss and share what you’ve learned with your co-workers. One of my greatest assets is tapping into the minds of other people and learning from their perspectives. Finally, I’d advise to stay flexible. We had to cross train pretty quickly in the adult ICUs to help out our adult RTs, and this was scary. But the need to be flexible and adaptable is extremely important. And that adds value to you as an employee. — Dabney M. Eidson, BS, RRT-NPS

Always remain flexible. There is nothing constant in health care except change. Keep the patient first and foremost in all that you do. — Tina Pitt, MPS, RRT, RRT-NPS

Realize that what you have learned is the foundation for your career and that there is so much more to learn. Always be teachable. Something that you learned years before may be the “gem” that you need in the future to provide the best care for a patient. Watch and listen to how seasoned RTs go about their day; you will add to or change your practice to become a better therapist. — Anne Brauer, CRT

As a new therapist, I embarked to save the patient. I was ready to put on my cape and save the world. As a 25-year veteran director, I daily remind my team that their safety is paramount. As badly as they may want to run in and save the world, their safety must come FIRST. To that new graduate, take that extra few seconds to secure your PPE. You are of no help to the countless others if you put your own health at jeopardy. Live to fight another day. This lesson is actually very important to all of us. COVID may wane, but other harmful viruses and bacteria lurk daily. Do not be lax; protect yourself so that you can help our most precious commodity — the patient. — Cindy Dail, BSRT, RRT

Do the right thing, not the fastest thing. You will notice other RTs performing their jobs like the goal is to get done as soon as possible. The goal in your mind should be to optimize the therapies you are providing. Take time to get to know your patients; listen to them. The stories they share with you can enrich your life and the lives of others around you. John Basile, BA, RRT

Always take the difficult assignment! You will learn time management skills, teamwork, and excellent clinical knowledge. You can always ask for help. — Timothy Buckley, MSRC, RRT

Keep asking questions and never stop learning. You can learn from everyone (even from losers — i.e., learn what they do and then DON’T do what they do!) As RTs, we never stop learning if our desire is to help people with lung diseases. Pandemics and other outbreaks of either viruses or bacterial lung diseases will always bring out the best in us, so embrace the challenges and never give up! — Dave Rodriguez, BA, RRT

My best piece of advice for therapists just starting out in their careers is to find a mentor. Seek out a veteran therapist whose work ethic and skills you admire and emulate that therapist. Spend time with your mentor to improve your patient care skills and your professionalism. — Julie Klensch, MEd, RRT

The learning never ends. Learn to take initiative and don’t be scared to get it wrong at times. No one will remember the times you failed but everyone will remember how you took initiative. Right now is a scary time in the health care field and it is okay to be scared. We all lean on each other at different times for different things, and now we will be leaning on you to shape the field into what you want it to be moving forward. Really, the profession is in your hands. You are all the change leaders now. — Matt Nolan MBA, BSRC, RRT-NPS, RRT-ACCS

My advice to new RTs: Join the AARC so that you get a subscription to Respiratory Care. Then every month read each abstract; it will only take you about 30 minutes. If you find a paper that relates to your work environment, read it in its entirety. Don’t be afraid to follow the references in the article. Then branch out to other journals dealing with pulmonary medicine — you won’t regret it. — Gregg Ruppel, RRT, RPFT

Focus on the little details in everything you do and don’t throw away your books. I always tell students, whenever an instructor says: “you don’t need to know that,” highlight it. Knowing the little details about a subject separates you from everyone else, and more importantly gives you clinical insights — opportunities to improve the patient’s care that most will not appreciate. It is not enough to be street smart; you need to be book smart and street smart. Many veteran RTs have lost much of their fundamental science knowledge and rely on their personal experience and what “makes sense” to guide decision-making. It has been my experience that in medicine what “sounds right” and “makes sense” is very often proven to be wrong. — Jeffrey Haynes, RRT, RPFT, FAARC

My advice is simple. Listen. Listen to your patients. Listen to their families. Listen to your preceptors. Listen to you supervisors. You have the knowledge, they have the experience. Don’t try to impress them with how much you think you know. Listen. — Karsten Roberts, MSRC, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS

Remember why you became an RT and practice that way every day. What all of us learned in school was current at that time, but our field changes so rapidly that continuous learning is absolutely essential. Always put the patient first. If you do that, everything else will fall in place. Seek out a mentor who has the time and ability to guide you along your career path. Be proud to be an RT and be even prouder of working as a team member and supporting your team, department, and organization. Apply the science of respiratory care and deliver it with the art and caring that molded you as an RT. — Garry Kauffman, MPA, RRT

Enjoy being an enthusiastic learner and teacher every day of your life. Being open to improvement and helping others grow with your knowledge will ensure career advancement and satisfaction. Never stop learning. — Duke Johns

To my newest colleagues, I am sure that many of you are both excited and worried about this journey on which you are about to embark. These are truly uncertain and unsettling times in our country. However, there are always a myriad of ways to view every situation, and for me, this is what I see for all of you. Our profession has always been viewed, in some areas, as one of those little understood careers. I spent most of my 26-year career explaining what I do to some people, only to face a blank stare, with the “Is that like a nurse?” comment. But now for you, THIS is your moment. COVID-19 has catapulted us into the spotlight across the country and the world. People have spoken about us and associated us with the most critically ill patients. They know we are not only essential, but highly valued. Don’t waste one moment of this recognition. Be involved, be active, be heard, be the professionals that those who came before you know you are. — Rena Laliberte, RRT, CPFT