It’s tempting to believe that just getting into and completing your respiratory care program is enough to make you an attractive job candidate. And there was a time in our profession when that was probably true. Hospitals were clamoring for RTs, and anyone with a degree had his or her choice of jobs.
With the new competition in the RT job market, however, today’s RT students and new grads have to do a lot more groundwork to ensure a successful future in the field. Here are seven tips you can use to gather the kind of experiences that will make you stand out from the crowd—
- Make the most of your clinicals: In a lot of fields, students compete for internships that allow them to show what they can do. In respiratory care, everyone does clinicals. But not everyone uses these opportunities to work alongside hospital RTs to their best advantage. Consider your clinicals an extended job interview. Ask questions, learn a lot, work hard, and if you get the chance to take the initiative on something, seize the moment and make yourself shine.
- Shadow a therapist: If you know you want to specialize in one area of the profession or another, seek out opportunities to shadow a local therapist who is working in that area. Ask your program director or department manager to put you in touch with someone who would be willing to let you tag along for a shift or two. Don’t expect to be paid—do it for the inside look you’ll get at that specialty. Not only will you see firsthand what it takes to work in the area, you’ll also get to know someone who may serve as a mentor to you as you gain experience in the field.
- Take all the interviews you are offered: New grads often have their hearts set on working in a certain location or at a certain hospital, but even if you’re sure you won’t really be interested in the job, take the interview anyway. Any chance to interview is a chance to gain experience in the interviewing process. And you never know—that job you thought you wouldn’t like just might turn out to be the position of your dreams.
- Give of yourself: Volunteer activities in general help you develop your abilities to work with people, and volunteer activities that relate to the profession of respiratory care do that in spades. So seek out opportunities to speak to schoolchildren about asthma or tobacco use, ask to help out with respiratory care booths at local health fairs, or create your own on-campus events aimed at educating your fellow students about lung health.
- Stay current with the literature: Respiratory care is constantly changing and it is the responsibility of everyone in the field to keep up with the latest developments by reading Respiratory Care and other respiratory-related journals. Imagine the advantage you can gain by sharing what you just learned in an interview or with a more experienced colleague.
- Take some courses: As an AARC member, you have access to a wealth of continuing education courses, many of them available free of charge. Take as many as you can, regardless if you need the CRCE to maintain your state license to practice or not. It’s not about the CRCEs…it’s about becoming a well-versed respiratory therapist who everyone will turn to when clinical questions arise.
- Don’t be afraid to ask: As a student or new grad, realize first and foremost that you still have a lot to learn. Identify RTs in your circle—or via AARConnect—who can provide you with some insight into the field. The more people you connect with, the bigger your professional network will be.