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Friday, December 13, 2013

Respect for respiratory therapists

I would like to revisit for a moment the issue of respect for respiratory therapists. For those of you new to this blog, you can read my opinion about respect for the profession here.

There is no less respect for the respiratory therapist as there is for any other profession in the medical industry.  There is no less respect for the respiratory therapists than there is for doctors or nurses or nurses aides or EMTs.

I had to bring this up again because I'm asked quite often by high school students aspiring to become RTs whether or not RTs are respected.  They say they want to take care of people with breathing trouble, but the RTs they talk to say there is no respect for this profession: don't do it.

I would like to contend that if you like people, if you have the skills necessary to make a difference to someone who has trouble breathing, then you should become a respiratory therapist; this is the right job for you.

Do not, I say, do not NOT go into this profession because people in the profession complain about it.  I say this because people in every profession get burned out and apathetic, and complain about their profession.  It happens especially among professionals who work with people.

When I was in high school I wanted to be a teacher.  I had a burning desire to teach, and I would have made a great teacher.  However, I asked two of my favorite teachers, and both told me teaching is a terrible profession, that the pay is terrible, and I should seek another career path.

So instead of going into teaching out of high school I became a journalist, and only later (after failing as a journalist) I chose another profession I really wanted to do: respiratory therapy.

Now, I love where I am at in my life, and I love being a respiratory therapist, but I would have made a great teacher.  I'm just saying.  I suppose, in a way, that's exactly what I've been doing right here on this blog the past six years.

My 15-year-old son wanted to be a dentist until a couple dentists we talked to said that it's not such a great profession, and there is a high suicide rate.  So my son said he didn't want to be a dentist any more.

I explained to him that he doesn't have to be a statistic.  If he really wants to be a dentist, he should do it.  He should not let a few negative people impact the most important decision he'll ever make.

I have a pharmacist friend who said pharmacy is a terrible profession.  He said you have doctors rushing you all the time, and you have patients who want you to get their prescription ready right now.  She said she'd switch professions, but she invested too much time and money, and has a lot of student loans to pay.  She said she's trapped.

I have an engineering friend who says he loves his job, but he's very burned out and apathetic even about that.  So, no matter what profession you go into, there's going to be burnout and apathy.  There's going to be complaining and negativism. It's just a part of life.

If you think you have the skills and personality that would make you a good respiratory therapist, then become a respiratory therapist.  If there are things you don't like about the profession, you can work to improve it, or you can use your experience and move up the ladder.

You also might find that you love this profession.

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Should Fish More said...

I found your blog rather by accident this morning. I am retired now for 3 years, started working back when it was still called 'inhalation therapy'. After around 15 years of trying various healthcare positions (pft under Barry Shapiro in '72, getting a MA in history, assistant administrator at a community hospital, etc) I settled on pulmonary diagnostics, became director at a large hospital in Seattle. One of the major vendors of diagnostic products made me an offer I couldn't refuse around '95, and I eventually was the global product director. Then the economy tanked and I decided enough and retired.

Regarding the question of whether or not someone would want to start in the field...I would say yes and no, or 'it depends'.

Are you adaptable, able to learn new, seemingly unrelated tasks? Do you mind that the longevity of your job may depend on things outside your influence?

Teaching can be a big part of the job, sometimes. I can't count how many RRT's I've trained in PFT and CPET, but most of them only worked occasionally in diagnostics. The few full-time teachers I know worked in community colleges, and their wages were rather low.

The RRT's I know that have done the 'best' are those who got multiple credentials, some in seemingly unrelated fields, physical therapy for example. The one's who've done the best financially are those who have gone to the 'private sector' and gone into sales, but they would have made good real estate agents too.


Rick Frea said...

Thanks, Mike. Hope your enjoying retirement. I have about another 20 years before I can take that route. I would agree that it does take a certain personality to be an RT, and everything else you said.