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Friday, October 30, 2009

The most sagacious RT I've ever met

I'd hate to give her an ego boost, but one of the main reasons I decided to work at Shoreline Medical was because of Jane Sage. She's one of the most easy to approach people I've ever met. She's also full of RT wisdom. You can ask her any question and she'll have an answer with the snap of a finger.

It's that kind of wisdom I wanted to obtain, and for that reason I sort of adapted her as my mentor whether she knows it or not. In fact, I think everyone in my department has adapted her as a mentor. So what is a mentor. A mentor is a person (or ghost if you like Shakespeare or ancient folklore) who teaches wisdom to make you the best person you can be.

She's one of those people anyone is comfortable talking with. And even during the most stressful periods her deportment is always cool, calm and collect. And it's not just me who's impressed by her wisdom and deportment, it's everyone in my department if not the entire hospital.

When I first started working here she made it clear I could call her even during the wee hours of the morning. I took advantage of this on many occasions, even recently.

One of the first times I called her was when my first really bad asthmatic patient was admitted, and the doctor wanted her on a 700 tidal volume. All the RT wisdom I learned from RT school was shouting at me this was waaaaay too much for this patient. I was stressed because the doctor was breathing down my back while I was looking over the vent, which was alarming like crazy. The patient was fighting the vent big time. She was autotrapping. I had her on a tidal volume of 200 and that was with a pressure of 58. Even though I was fresh out of school, my gut feeling said that there was no way I should give this lady more than 200. Yet how was I, a rookie, going to tell this to the experienced and arrogant doctor.

Yes I was second guessing myself as many new RTs do, so I risked looking like an idiot to the doctor and stepped aside and called Jane. She answered the phone with her usual pleasant tone and provided some options to me. Right away she made me feel better about myself and my decisions.

Finally she decided she would come in. This turned out to be a great thing considering Jane never left the patient's room all night, and neither did the doctor. I was so thankful that she came in because ER was also swamped that night. She did not have to come in. She was not even on call.

The next time I saw Jane she said she explained to the doctor pretty much what I had already told him. I suppose he just wanted to hear the wisdom from a seasoned RT as opposed to a rookie. I quickly realized Jane had the answer to not just every RT related question, but to RN related questions as well. In fact, there have been many occasions where even doctors called upon her for her wisdom -- even calling her at her home.

Later Jane told me that I impressed her that night as well, and not just because of my gut instinct to follow the wisdom I learned in RT school, but because I bit my pride and got on the phone to call her. She'd make a good politician because she knew exactly what buttons to push.

I've had the privilege of following Jane for 12 years now. That's 12 years of watching her work, and listening to her wisdom. We've had discussions on nearly every topic from RT Wisdom to politics, from discussions about paleoconservatives to Aragon. There aren't many people around who enjoy an intelligent discussion regardless of the topic.

In fact, I can honestly say that she alone was the inspiration for me to be more than a button pusher respiratory therapist. I could have been paired up with a lazy RT, or a complainer, or someone who was just satisfied with getting a paycheck and doing as little as possible to earn it. Yet, thankfully, I was paired up with Jane, who was always striving to become a better RT; always researching; always learning; never satisfied with the status quo; always questioning; always thinking.

She is not nor ever was an RT boss, although she easily could have been. She ran the department per se but not really. She was a true leader who had plenty of wisdom to provide to the RT bosses in times of crisis, and when it came to creating new policy, or writing new protocols, or convincing doctors they were wrong or that changes were needed, Jane was up to the task.

I know that Jane spent hundreds of hours writing a ventilator protocol once, and then it sat in her locker collecting dust for probably 10 years. In this time several other protocols were written and rejected. Yet, while the other RTs gave up, Jane charged forward. Despite the low morale, despite the reluctance of the admins and RT bosses to change the status quo, Jane never stopped learning, never stopped creating.

Then one day a doctor went to the RT Boss saying that he thought it would be a good idea to have a ventilator protocol. The RT Boss directed this doctor to Jane who just happened to have a protocol in waiting. The doctor was impressed, and now that protocol has been in effect for five years. Of course that doctor took credit for the protocol, but Jane didn't care. Jane's persistence was rewarded. In fact I think just yesterday on this blog she wrote about the importance of being proactive in her advice to newbies.

I remember once driving down south to a nice restaurant where a representative of Xopenex was going to give a presentation. After several free drinks, a delicious free steak dinner (of course we ordered the most expensive items on the menu), and a buzz, Jane listened as a pediatrician asked about the use of Xopenex for his pediatric patients. Jane said something like, "Do you guys have any research regarding bronchodilators and RSV. I've read that the latest research shows that bronchodilators aren't recommended for RSV anymore. Is this true?"

I can't remember what the reps answer was, nor does it really matter. What I remember most is what Jane said to me on the way back: "You see, Rick, I was just planting seeds. That's the best way of changing doctor's minds. You do it by first planting seeds."

Later I learned that she was really good at convincing doctors to do things her way by making the doctor think it was his idea. This was perhaps one of the best skills I've picked up from Jane. You just kind of slip an idea into the doctors mind, and let him take credit for the idea. That's the way we RTs function.

Sure there have been ups and downs in the morale department, and there have been turnover of bosses, admins and nurses. Yet through it all this hospital has always seemed to have a good feeling about it. In fact, when I first started working her I remember telling Jane that I thought it was neat how well the nurses here get along with the RTs so well. Jane said to me, "This place has kind of a down home feeling about it."

She was right. This place is a great place to work. Sure there's always politics, but overall Shoreline medical is a down home place. And one of the reasons for that is people like Jane Sage with her pleasant deportment, her never get angry deposition, and her willingness to learn and share her wisdom.

She can take a joke, too, as well as dish one out. One day I came into work to learn that there were 25 patients, three vents, and that I was going to have to work alone. And just as set out to tackle this dilemma with my vexed heart racing, she said the magic words: "April Fools."

I can't imagine what Shoreline Medical will be like without Jane. She's the kind of worker no boss wants to see move on, and no coworker either. Yet, as with all good things in life, there comes a time for it to end. Tomorrow, right here at the RT Cave, Jane will announce her retirement.

Note #1: Shhhh!!! Just between you and me, this will be good for the RT Cave because she'll have more time to write for us. I'm sure we could all benefit from the wisdom of the most sagacious RT: Jane Sage.

Note #2: Calm down Jane. Don't get too big of a head. If your ego gets too big your head will expand and you'll become a doctor.

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