(Editor's note: This is a guest post from a senior RT at Shoreline Medical)
As I continue to contemplate retirement, I worry about what will happen to all the advancements at Shoreline, that I have been a part of over the years. These advancements are hard-won, hard fought for victories that I am particularly proud of. I couldn't enumerate or name them, as they have accumulated over a twenty five year period. I worry even more about advancements of my profession here, if someone doesn't step up to the plate and take over my pro-active stance about the place of respiratory therapy at Shoreline.
When I arrived here as a rental therapist 25 years ago, I had only been in the field for a year and was the typical cocky, know it all, coming to Podunk from a much larger teaching hospital where I spent most of my time in the post open heart unit. Therapists here did not get a lot of respect from the doctors or the nurses. They were looked upon more as aerosol and oxygen jockeys and much less as professional, educated patient care givers. They were most definitely NOT a valued part of the patient care team. I would like to say that I immediately set about fixing this nasty little perception of who we were, alas, that is not how it went.
After my first three weeks, I had managed to upset and alienate at least half of the nursing staff and a couple of doctors. I'm not sure my co-workers or my director really thought I would ever fit into the establishment. I started and ended many conversations with, "Well, at Mid-Regional Hospital we did it this way". Needless to say this did not go over well at all. I finally came to realize this when one of the nursing staff looked me square in the eye and quietly said, "If it was so much better at Mid-Regional, why don't you go back there!" I was completely stunned! Why would she speak to me in such a fashion? Thankfully I was able to figure out the problem, it was me. After much soul searching I was able to see the error of my ways and was able to accept there was no one way to approach a single problem. Thanks to that nurse I was able to grow and become a better person and therapist. I still work with this woman and have been happy to do so all these twenty five years. Moral, be open minded, willing to listen and above all, a team player.
I have also learned that tho' you may lead a horse to water, you can't make him drink, is not true, with a little patience, you may lead that horse to water and waiting long enough that little bugger will get thirsty and finally drink. Moral, if you want to make changes, present the ideas, be prepared to defend them and someone will start listening. You may not get all that you ask for but like any good salesman you have now got your foot in the door and time will do the rest.
Here at Shoreline Medical the Respiratory department has been complimented and held up as an example of continued learning and expertise. Within the ranks of our staff there is a constant drive to be the best we can be, (is that a Marine axiom?). We have shadowed staff in the NICU's, MICU's and TICU's of large teaching hospitals in our area. This took some co-ordinated effort on our part and the part of the teaching institution but it was well worth it. At smaller rural hospitals you, as a therapist may never encounter certain aspects of critical care/trauma, but if you do you must do the right thing at the right time and that means being as familiar as possible in these areas. Moral, learn, learn, learn.
A few years ago Shoreline implemented the Michigan Keystone ICU. Accidentally, I came up the announcement of meetings where a ventilator protocol would be drafted. Now I had been singing the protocol song for a long time and had many of my own ideas of how one should be written. Not having been invited to the Keystone meetings I hurried off to my directors office to beg him to volunteer me for this committee. Thankfully, it worked and our department was represented in this most important area of our field. Moral, knee jerk reactions are too late and a dollar short. Be proactive not reactive! If you don't participate don't b""""".
Probably the most cherished complement that I have ever received was one that came from a patient's husband to my director, "Jane is an example of the consummate professional". I cannot begin to tell anyone how great that made me feel. I still see this man around the hospital today and always become conscious of who I am and who I represent to the patients, family and other staff members. Moral, to be treated like a professional, you must first act like a professional. I sure hope the man meant the statement in the manner in which it was received, otherwise that plump feather in my cap will surely be plucked!