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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The six different types of respiratory therapists

There is much resistance to change inside the RT Cave. After much thought on the matter, I have figured out why. It has everything to do with the six different types of Respiratory Therapists (RTs).

Many RT Caves do not have protocols. I've heard every complaint

Very, very slowly I think doctors are becoming more and more receptive to the benefits of adding respiratory therapy patient driven protocols. In real time seems tortuously slow, but I think in ten or twenty years we might be talking about some major changes in the rolls of RTs.

While this is true, there are still many RTs themselves who don't seem to be receptive to change. This became ever more so apparent to me after reading an excellent column over at Snotjockeys Revisited, "Clinician Resistance to Adopting New Practices".

I agree with her, and have my own experience to add to the mix.

A fellow RT, Dale, is very fun to work with. He's intelligent, a great RT; but he is a constant complainer. He complains in a fun way, but nevertheless he is still a complainer.

"I circled all the indicated treatments on the board," he said the other day in report.

"Um," I said, looking over the list of patients, "there are none circled."

"That's my point," he said, and chuckled.

One day he handed me a list. I looked at it thinking it was serious at first, then I started to laugh. On it was a list of 'olins that he made up. (You can view parts that list at the bottom of this blog)

He said, "I bet that 60% of what we do here is absolutely not indicated."

I'm a firm believer that if you're not having fun with your job what's the point. So we make fun of our job. We make fun of doctors, we make fun of nurses, we joke around during a code. I think that's medical humor, and we do it to maintain our sanity.

I check doctor blogs and nurses blogs, and I see their humor all the time.

But humor is one thing, complaining is another. And complaining with Dale is fun, but most complaining in the RT Cave is simply annoying. I avoid it every chance I get. If I have no choice but to give report to a complainer, I give a quick report and scram.

I used to work with Dale a lot. In fact, I'm glad I had that opportunity to work with him because I learned much and he helped me develop my RT humor. However, I was never going to get anywhere via complaining. Complainers rarely get anything accomplished. But they are abounding in the department.

What's that old saying? "Complainers say more about themselves than the person they're complaining about."

I realized this, and I switched weekends. Now all the complainers work with Dale on the other weekend. The RTs who work on my shift are Jane Sage, a very optimistic, intelligent and fun to work with person. And we have Dee, who happens to be a complacent RT (see list below).

Jane had an epiphany one day, and decided the laid back RTs on our weekend are awesome, and she started referring to us at the "A" team. We called the RTs on the other weekend the "B" team. Once the "B" team got wind of this they decided that they were the New "A" team.

"That's fine," Jane said, "We won't tell them that "A" now stands for Anal and "B" now stands for Better than Anal."

Despite the complainers, we have enough "balance" of different personalities to make things work in our department. You need the complainers so we know of our faults, we need the anal people to make sure we get all our work done, we need the content people to boss around, the laid-back people to ease tensions, and the clowns to make us laugh.

I'd even go as far to say we have a great department. I suppose that means we have good balance. I'm sure the members of this RT Cave are no different than any other.

With this in mind, I created the following list. Based on my experience working with many RTs in the past 10 years, these are the six different types of RTs:

  1. The stepping stones: These are the RTs who use the career of RT as a stepping stone to a more illustrious medical profession. In my humble opinion, this is the way to go. What better way to learn about medicine than through the eyes of an RT. I'm serious here.

  2. The quitters: These are the RTs who don't like to work. Some "Quitters" take a job of RT because they think it will be an easy job and they won't have to do anything. As soon as they learn what RTs really do, they either quit or are forced out the door.

  3. The contents: They are the happy-go-lucky RTs who never complain. They are the RTs you love to give report to because they are always happy. They rarely make any effort at learning new information other than what is required. They usually prefer not to work with critical patients, and when they do they never question doctors and they prefer to be button pushers. Usually, you will see these RTs happily knocking off treatments on the floors.

  4. The complainers: This composes probably about 60% of all RTs. These are usually very intelligent people who love the career of respiratory therapy in theory, but hate the reality of it. They are usually well up on all the new technologies, and are very quick to question doctors or offer suggestions. However, while they are not happy, they do nothing to better their career field. After working for a while, they become frustrated and content and they give up. One of the reasons they are so frustrated is that they have decided that they are too old to get another job, or have families which makes changing jobs difficult. Yet, while they complain, they do not support change.

  5. The optimists (or learners): These are the RTs who write blogs. They may or may not be more intelligent than complainers, but they love to learn. These are the RTs that consistently do research on the Internet and read magazines. These are the RTs that attend every seminar possible. These are the RTs who write the protocols and make recommendations for new equipment, and then write the policy and procedures for this new equipment. These are the RTs who learn about things like Graphics and educate the rest on how to use them. These are the RTs who make the best of their career even though they know there are a lot of forces working against them. Most important, these are the RTs every one in the department loves to talk to because they are good listeners (they listen because they love to learn). More often than not, they work with the leaders to solve these problems as they occur. They often let other RTs take credit for the work they do. They do this to keep morale in the department high. In essence, the optimists are the strings that keep the department together. A department without optimists does not run very well.

  6. The leaders: These RTs, while far and few, take charge and lead. They make changes to the RT Cave and they are resented for it. They make sure everything is stocked. They make sure all the i's are dotted and the t's crossed. They are usually opposed to protocols because they don't want to "rock the boat", but they won't say so openly. They listen to the rants of other RTs, but they usually side with the administration on issues. They question RTs who question the status quo. You might hear them at an RT meeting saying something like, "Don't you think protocols might actually create more work for you guys." When they say things like this, they are catering to the complainers, who will work with them to stymie any change. The leaders do no like change because it goes against their philosophy of "do not rock the boat." It is also important to note that while most leaders are good people with normal home lives, they are often hated and revered at work. Complainers often do not get along with them, and optimists are often seen working with them "for the better of the department."
I can give examples galore, but I'll give just one more.

Even though she had several protocols shot down years earlier, Jane wrote a new and updated ventilator set-up and weaning protocol. The complainers in our department all said it would never be approved by the doctors.

Jane trudged on nonetheless. She had the support of me, another optimist, and Dee, the easy going content on our weekend. Finally, with a bit of luck, the protocol was approved.

With our confidence on high after, Jane and I wrote a breathing treatment protocol we thought might work. We were very proud of our efforts. We thought we'd show it to our co-workers and get their support.

I showed it to Dale first. Surely he'd approve of it since he was the most outspoken RT about useless and not-indicated breathing treatments.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

"So what do you think?" I said after he stared at it for several long minutes, grunting and sighing often.

"Well," he paused while staring off, then spoke slowly, "The biggest offenders will still abuse the system. If it does anything it will just create more work."

"Okay," I said. I made no effort to change his mind. I walked away. No point in beating a dead horse.

Jane brought up the protocol at a department meeting. Gary, the department head and quintessential RT leader, said: "It is possible you might just be creating more work for yourselves by doing this."

He may be right; he may be wrong. Either way, Jane and I keep moving forward. And that's easier to do now that we know about the six different types of RTs.


mielikki said...

good for you and Jane. My little Podunk is so small, and we have so few RT's that we don't even have one for all the catagories! But, they make fun of us, we make fun of them, and most of them seem to like their job, especially the ones that come into the ICU, so I have no complaints!

Julia said...

I completely loved this! You've nailed down these "types", although I'd put the "complainers" category at something more like 80%--maybe that's regional?

Although. . .I'm an "optimist"? Really? Me?

Rick Frea said...

80%??? probably. But I'm aware that most people tend to have qualities of more than one RT type. For example, I consider myself to be mostly "optimistic" about my field, however, I come from the complainers, and I might slip back into complain mode from time to time.

I guess you can say I used "optimist" for lack of a better word. Let me know if you think of a word that better fits the category. Maybe the "researchers" or, better yet, the "learners."

Mulysa said...

i love your blog. i wish i had more time to post. you are very insightful and this post was hilarious. i am inspired to post more about my field!

Guitarmageddon said...

I feel I'm more optimistic now than than when I started as an RT approx. 36 year ago. I seen the profession grow quite a bit and look forward to gaining as many skills as it requires. Though I realize I can't be an expert in everything, I will stay curious and interested.
I will do the mediocre stuff perfectly and worry about conquering the world later.