No one knows for sure who invented the “elevator speech” — it’s been attributed to everyone from journalists to a quality test technician to Elisha Graves Otis, who invented a device that significantly improved the safety of actual elevators back in the 1850s.
But the intent is the same: in a few short sentences (about the time it would take to ride up or down on an elevator with someone), sum up a message that will resonate with your listeners.
With National Respiratory Care Week just around the corner (Oct. 20-26), now is the perfect time to come up with your own elevator speech about who respiratory therapists are and what they do for a living. With the celebrations set to go into full swing on Oct. 20, plenty of people are going to be seeing RC Week posters, banners, displays, and more, and we can all help extend the conversation by delivering our speeches whenever and wherever someone steps up to us and asks: “Now what is it exactly that you do?”
Examples from your colleagues
Not sure how to craft an elevator speech of your own? Here are eight great examples from your colleagues in the AARC —
I work in cardiopulmonary rehab. I get to exercise with people who have chronic lung problems. I teach them how to improve their quality of life and live better with what they have left. — BJ Brown, RRT, Spokane Valley, WA
Hi, my name is Kim, and I’m a registered respiratory therapist. Respiratory therapists fly, evaluate, intubate, educate, and treat patients with lung disease. We’re easily confused with doctors and nurses, but we are specially-trained practitioners who are licensed to provide care to some of our community’s sickest patients. We work in all areas of health care, like hospitals, clinics, homeless shelters, and patient homes. — Kim Bennion, MsHS, RRT, CHC, Salt Lake City, UT
I help people work for every breath, every day. We are there when a premature baby needs help with their first breath and hold the hand when the matriarch or patriarch of a family takes her or his last one. When an asthmatic is feeling like a fish out of water or a COPDer needs “extra air,” we’re there to help. — LaToya Pryor, BSPA, RRT, Palos Hills, IL
It’s actually a dynamic field where, depending on the institution, you could find yourself assisting with the delivery of a 500-gram baby or responding to a trauma in the emergency department. RTs are experts at caring for patients with respiratory ailments from a multitude of causes, ranging from prematurity to asthma and COPD. An RT can find themselves deeply involved in performing lifesaving interventions like endotracheal intubation or managing a complex ICU patient on a mechanical ventilator. — Matthew McNally, BSRT, RRT, Lebanon, NH
I have the honor, privilege, and responsibility to breathe life into the tiniest and most fragile patients in the hospital. I am a neonatal respiratory therapist. — Cayce Hendrix, MA, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, Columbia, SC
Respiratory therapists are specialized health care practitioners who provide care to patients with deficiencies and abnormalities of the cardiopulmonary system. Respiratory therapists treat patients with aerosolized medication, provide lung clearance and expansion therapies, and are capable of mechanically breathing for patients who are unable to efficiently. Respiratory therapists work with patients ranging from premature infants to the elderly, work in all areas of the hospital, and are vital members of the emergency response team. — Janae Zachary, BS, RRT, Liberal, KS
I am a respiratory therapist. My main job is to help improve patients’ breathing by administration of medications, the delivery of oxygen, and using life support devices called ventilators. RTs work in various locations in the hospital environment and treat the smallest of babies and the oldest of adults. We are highly trained individuals that are part of the clinical team that helps your loved one get better. — Kenneth Miller, MEd, MSRT, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, FAARC, Bath, PA
We take care of you from your first breath to the last. We run the machines that breathe for you, give you medicine to help open your lungs so you can breathe easier, evaluate your lungs for disease and rehabilitate you when there is damage, and we breathe for you during CPR. — Kerry McNiven, MS, RRT, Manchester, CT
Craft your own
Adopt one of these speeches as your own, borrow bits and pieces, or come up with a truly original elevator speech that speaks to your personal passion for the profession.
Then the next time someone asks you what you do for a living, you’ll be prepared to send them on their way with a greater understanding of who we are and why we do what we do.