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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The student who was told he would fail as an RT

There was a RT student about 13 years ago who was told he wasn't going to make it as a respiratory therapist. What made this particularly distressing to the student was that the person telling him this was one of his RT teachers

The incident that lead up to this encounter with his teacher occurred during his first clinical rotation as a student. This was actually supposed to by his oxygen rotation where he was to learn about oxygen and oxygen rounds, but was also allowed to do treatments if his preceptor felt he was ready.

After he had followed his preceptor, an elderly choleric lady named Ellen, around for two rotations, he was finally given his own assignment of doing oxygen rounds on his own, and one patient to give a breathing treatment to.

This seems like a simple assignment to any seasoned RT, but it could be quite daunting to new student. And, once he was set free by his preceptor, he set out to do his oxygen rounds. He was so determined to do a good job, and so intense in concentration, that he forgot about the treatment.

Several hours later he was feeling pretty good about another good clinical day's work. He listened as Ellen gave report on her patients, and thought nothing of it at first when she paused and looked at him.

"You give report on this person." Ellen pointed at the student.


"You were supposed to do a treatment on this person right?"

"ummm... Gulp!

The next day Ellen watched the student like a hound as he did his oxygen rounds, and later as he did ALL of her breathing treatments. She stood behind him so close as he put together the nebulizer that he felt faint by the rancid odor of her breath, and this made him nervous, and he fumbled immensely.

It's not that he couldn't do treatments either, because he had asthma his entire life and gave himself treatments at his home when he needed them. Such a choleric person might have caused stress on a seasoned RT, let alone a new student.

And, after he finished doing ALL of her treatments and had returned to the RT Cave at this hospital, the RT student felt a sense of joy as he knew he would be going home soon. He actually felt good about what he had accomplished. He was bound and determined not to be swayed in his desire to be an RT by this evil woman.

Yet, just as he thought things were starting to go well, and just as he thought he was going to be able to rest a bit, Ellen plopped an oxygen tank in front of the RT student and gave the student a petulant glare that would have caused an experienced RT to stay away. But this student had no such option.

"Turn that on and off and on and off again," she growled. The student looked at her. Are you joking?

She did not blink. The corners of her lips moved just slightly, and he thought for a moment her face might crack. He thought he might turn to stone by her wicked glance, but unfortunately he didn't.

Instead, he plucked the key off the top of the tank and fumbled terribly in his attempt to do this simple task. It was as though that cantankerous old RT had a spell on him.

The next morning at school the RT Student was called to his teacher/clinical coordinator's office. Oh, boy, he thought, Here we go.

"Student, grades aside, I'm not sure you have the personality to make it as an RT. You just don't have the bubbly, outgoing personality like the other people in this class."

His heart skipped a beat. Okay, what's coming next? I can take it. I'm out of the program aren't I?

"The people you worked with at Happy don't think you are capable of being an RT. I know you're new at this, so we're gonna give you some time. But, I'm not quite sure about you at this point." He paused and stared at the paperwork on his desk, then looked at the student. "We'll see."

Fortunately, that RT student never had to follow that witchy preceptor again, probably more so because she refused to work with him than anything else. But the other preceptors weren't any better the rest of that six week clinical.

And, likewise fortunate, every six week rotation was at a different hospital, so he was exceptionally happy that his next assignment was far, far away from the wicked withch of the west. And everything went perfect from then on, well, aside from the few bumps in the road.

And, a year later when he applied at the hospital of his choice, one of the RT's from the hospital, we'l call her Tara, where he did his first clinical just happened to work there. And she was not nice to him. Right off the bat she put in a bad word about him, and she recommended he not be hired because "he's incompetent."

Fortunately, he had made a far better impression at his later clinicals, and had made some great friends along the way. And, despite the bad word from that one RT, he was hired.

And while all the other RTs at this new hospital were great, that one lady was just as bitchy as Ellen. This student love his new place of employment. But Tara continued to bad mouth him. It got so that the now former student was only scheduled to work when Tara wasn't working.

Then one day Tara quit because she couldn't handle the workload of working at a small town hospital. Things get pretty hectic sometimes.

You see,he was bound and determined not to let one stupid mistake, two cows and one teacher's comments stand between him and success. If anything, these people lit a fire under his butt.

That was more than ten years ago, and now I'm still here working as one member of an elite RT staff. That's right: I am the student who was told he would never make it as an RT.

Now you know the rest of the story.


just respiratory said...

I've actually had the problem of not being as supervised as I probably should. I have attended the same clinical site twice during my three rotations. Although one was more watchful than the other, I've never felt hounded by anyone.

My last rotation was kind of funny. It was at a big teaching hospital. They have no strict dress code for student therapists. I sure as a hell wasn't going to stand out and wear my school lab coat patch. I would usually wear scrub pants with a long sleeve tee.

There were no superficial indicators that I was a student. Plus, my clincals were at night. So, most of the time the non-respiratory staff thought I was new employee undergoing orientation.

When I was assigned to the surgical heart unit, where nurses have ABG, weaning and vent protocol (gag), and it was very busy, the therapists I were with would more or less let me free.

One time they were busy running blood gases when the phone rang in the ABG lab. The high pressure alarm was going off on the vent. One of them handed me the phone and said, "See if you can fix that". "Hey, what the hell? Why not?" I thought to myself. Turns out one of the nurses didn't pull out the ballard enough after suctioning.

It was an interesting experience. Although it definitely boosted my confidence, I kind of felt cheated that I didn't get much one on one time with the clinical instructor.

michelle said...

Interesting post. :) And inspiring too!

sometimesibreathe said...

Great story. Now I feel compelled to do some work.