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Friday, February 18, 2011

Do new RTs have to work nights?

Here's a good RT Question in my search of the net:

Your Question: Do RTs always have to start out on night shift? I'm interested in respiratory therapy, but I've been told you must start out on the graveyard shift. I'm not sure I want to do this as I hate working nights.

My humble answer: The answer to this kind of depends. You can get lucky and get hired onto the day shift. I've seen it happen a few times. Yet most of the time new RTs get hired to work nights, because generally, as a day post comes up, those RTs with seniority will want that new day spot.

However, I also see a lot of new RTs getting hired in the pool, otherwise known as the on call or prn spot. This new RT will be the fill in RT, and he or she will work all days. If someone retires, or quits, he will scoop up the new position that opens up, which is almost always the night spot.

Since turnover rates are low in small town hospitals, and new positions rarely come up, that's an added incentive for senior RTs to scoop up the day posts when they do come up. That's what happened with me. I loved working nights, yet I knew if I didn't scoop up the day job that just came up, I might be years before I had another chance.

However, there is another way of looking at this. Some RT bosses believe that new RTs should gain confidence on day shift when they will rarely work alone. Working with other RTs, if they come across a stressful or unfamiliar situation, they have someone to help them out. Then, once the RT boss gains confidence in this new RT, he can be moved to the night shift.

I actually agree with this, to a point. I think most new RTs should work days for a while to gain confidence. Yet I also believe that you can't keep bear cubs in the den all their lives. There comes a point when you have to send them out into the real world.

I say this because when I was a new RT I worked for three years in the pool for three hospitals, and was trained right away to work nights. I was very uncomfortable at first, yet being forced to act, I learned quick. I also learned quick to realize that I didn't know everything, and that my co-worker's wisdom was only a phone call away.

Working nights is what separates the big boys and girls with the button pushers. If you can work nights and succeed, you will be that much better of an RT. This is especially true if you get hired at a small town hospital like Shoreline where the night shift RT works alone.

I think the best answer to this question should be: Rarely do RTs get hired in on day shift.

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