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Monday, December 3, 2007

Respiratory Therapy School: What you need to know about complainers inside the RT Cave

I'm going to expound here on RT complainers, however, it's hard to talk about complainers without sounding like one myself. Likewise, it's hard to discern between constructive complaining and non-constructive complaining.
I've had to rewrite this a few times with that in mind.

Before you read the following, I want you to know that I really do like my job as a respiratory therapist. And, I think this is an excellent job for people to go into, especially if you want to take care and treat patients with respiratory illnesses.

It's a really great job. At times it can be challenging. At times your adrenaline will be rushing especially when you have a critical patient, and what you do or don't do could determine whether or not that person lives or moves on to meet his maker.

Many times you will be able to work with doctors determining what route to take in caring for a patient. And, of course, sometimes doctors might not want your help. Okay, so it's that way with any job.

I think the job of RT is a great job for anyone who wants a job and needs to start working right away. That's why I chose this field. You get to start working as soon as you start school. Then, as you become certified and registered, you get your pay raises.

This is an ideal job for people who want to use RT as a stepping stone to moving onto other medical related fields, such as PA or DR. To be honest, I think all doctors should be RTs first. This is an ideal job for former stay at home mom's, construction workers or others who want an easier life, and asthmatics who want to work in a clean environment.

Basically, this is a great job for anyone who wants to start a career later in life and wants a guaranteed return on his investment. This is a great job for anyone who wants a career you can take with you no matter where in the world you live.

When you start working you may meet the complainers. I was lucky and didn't meet them until my third student rotation. I later found out that they often go into hiding when RT students are around.

You know them, because they are abounding in every profession. Don't let them get you down. Because you know that your job is what you make it.

You also should know that if they really hated their jobs they could easily get another one. You might tell them that at some point, but then they'd complain about you too. The truth is, they don't want to change careers. They are content with what they are doing, they simply find release in complaining.

They do not want to change jobs for reasons I stated earlier, that this is probably their third chosen career, they are getting up in age and don't want the stress of changing careers again, or they have families and don't have the resources or time to go back to school. Those are the most common reasons.

Herewith, I am going to make an attempt at explaining the RT complainer to you, because they are different from complainers of other career paths. Your teachers in RT school will not tell you any of this, so I am.

I've read a few posts this past week about RTs complaining too much about their jobs. In the post I linked to above I stated that about 60% of RTs are complainers, and someone corrected me by stating that she thinks it's more like 80%. Either way, they are abounding.

One of the biggest complaints I hear is: "What's the point of increasing my RT knowledge when doctors don't let me use it?" This is what I will focus mostly on in this post. I will not delve into "the hospital admins make decisions regarding us without consulting us," or "you'd think at a hospital they'd at least have good health insurance." I won't go there.

We'll focus on RT knowledge. As I stated above, greatest complaint regarding RTs is the result of them being over educated for the job.

Of course, you know why you should always try to increase your knowledge, because if the opportunity presents itself you want to be prepared. If a doctor is looking for ideas about what to do for a patient, you can say, "Hey, I read somewhere that..." He will be impressed with you.

The biggest advantage to improving your education is that if the career opportunity presents itself, and you are prepared and ready for it, you can apply. Now I've never had such opportunity, but if it ever comes up I will be ready.

But what's the deal with this "what's the point of learning" complaining?

The bottom line here is this: Most of us RTs feel that we are overqualified for our jobs. We have 2-plus years of education plus whatever experience we've accumulated on the job plus knowledge we obtain through continued education, all of this making us specialists in the respiratory diseases and how to fix them.

And yet, in many hospitals, we are not allowed to use this knowledge because many doctors do not want to give away any of their autonomy.

I will give you a few examples from my own personal experience.

1. Non-constructive complaining:

I feel absolutely stupid going into a room of a post-op patient with no signs of respiratory distress and telling that person I have to give a breathing treatment. There is no reason for it, and it's frustrating.

Many RTs bicker about this. It's best to keep your mouth shut.

2. Non-constructive complaining:

When I have a ton of therapies, and 70% of them are not indicated, and I still have to do every one of the non-indicated treatments while making sure my treatments on my SOB patients are never late, while still taking care of ER and STAT therapies, this can be taxing on me. It can cause unnecessary burnout.

I describe this in a recent post, "R. By the time I got to work I was already burned out, and I took it out on my co-worker. Not a good idea.

We all have our opinions, and the chronic complainers will let us know about them on a regular basis. But when I complain, it's usually when I'm burned out.

3. Constructive complaining and non-constructive complaining combined:

What if we have one patient who is SOB, and I know I have the cure for his ailments right in my pocket, but I have to wait a half hour for the doctor to respond. I have to stand idly by while my patient suffers. As a fellow asthmatic, I can't stand this part of the job.

I think I am justified in not being happy about this.

I find myself grumbling and griping, "Why hasn't the doctor called back yet?"

My solution to this problem is what I call my "Act now and apologize later protocol." I have never been written up for doing this. Never. So that solves that complaint. However, isn't this something that should be complained about.

This example could possible by non-constructive, if I grumble and gripe too much.

4. Constructive complaint:

In "Grumpiness stays in the RT cave" I detail another complaint that's really not a bad thing to complain about. I write about a nurse who called for a treatment on a patient when the treatment really wasn't indicated.

While most times I keep my mouth shut and just do the treatment, sometimes I like to take the time to educate the nurses. While most times they want to learn, sometimes they take it as a complaint. And, if I'm burned out, I probably come across as I'm complaining. So, I've learned it's best just to keep my mouth shut even in these situation.

5. Non-constructive complaint:

Using the above example, we know that educating is not complaining. However, when you have to do this on a daily basis, particularly over and over to the same nurse, it can become frustrating and can lead to non-constructive complaining. Most nurses, however, want to learn and will listen.

If the nurse is really busy, she might not want to hear it. This can get frustrating in itself. More than likely in this case, she just want you to make sure you take care of the patient, regardless of whether the treatment is needed or not. And, many times, RNs and doctors determine that giving a treatment is better than doing nothing, even when it's not needed.

In cases like this, I've learned to keep my mouth shut as, I'd presume, most RTs have.

6. Non-constructive complaining:

I will use all the above examples here. While RT complainers excel at this, all other RTs will complain about just about anything from time to time. It can't be helped and it's a fact of life. (If a content does this, you know you're in trouble.)

7. Constructive complaining:

I always tell my friends that I'm not complaining, I'm simply stating a fact. And, when I show people my list of 'olins (listed at bottom of blog), or I tell them some of my RT humor (plastered all over my blog), I think this is the best way to complain. Just by thinking of all this stuff we have to be learning something. So long as we don't go overboard, I think this is the best way to let off steam.

Well, at least I think so.

I can probably think of more types of complaining, but my mind is strapped at this time.

Overall, the greatest complain is regarding non-indicated breathing treatments. If you are a true professional, you would understand explaining them away like this:

When doctors and nurses call me for therapies I feel are not indicated, I like to think they simply want an RT to be assessing the patient QID or Q4 just to be on the safe side. That's not such a bad thing, is it? (It is if it leads to burnout.)

If you're still not content with non-indicated therapies, I suppose Taylor on Kid Nation says it best: "Deal with it."

The best way of dealing with the grumbling and griping is to continue to work toward impressing doctors and nurses by generating respect with them by always staying on the cutting edge of knowledge.

Likewise, if we do not have protocols already, we must study the protocols of other hospitals, continue the education process (as we do on these blogs), and work, slowly and patiently if needed, to get them implemented. Will this get rid of all non-indicated therapies, probably not.

By continuously working to better ourselves, we strain away our desire to complain. Most important, we know that by our complaining we only cause other professionals (Drs, nurses) to stray further away from us. They hate complainers. This is the best way to not make progress, as you can read about at Snotjockey's Revisited.

And you will be reminded many times that "the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence."

You will find complainers everywhere you work. I was a journalist once, and they were there; 80% of them. I was a hotel desk clerk once, and they were there; 80% of them. I worked in the fast food business once, and they were there; 80% of them. It never ends.

Still, if you've set foot in any RT Cave, you know that RT complainers are not interested in making the RT Cave a better place, because deep down they are simply content to keep things the way they are. For reasons I listed above, they know they will be trapped in the RT Cave for the rest of their working lives.

To make themselves feel better, they gripe and groan. The rest of us are forced to take the brunt of it.

However, if you can stand to listen to a complainer, they are very intelligent people. As you know, they complain mostly because they are overqualified for the job. I really think that's true. I've obtained tons of material for this site by listening to complainers. They are up on their knowledge.

It's just too bad they don't use all that energy and focus it in on progress.

Here's a thought before I end for the day: "If it weren't for complainers, nothing would ever get accomplished in this world." I'm sure you've heard the old saying, "The squeaky wheel always gets the grease."


Terry at Counting Sheep said...

I often wonder how many people would still complain if staffing were better, ie, closer to the ideal? That way, you could have staff available to give the inane treatments all day, while others would be available to give the really important and needed ones, too.

Rick Frea said...

The problem with staffing our hospital is we get really busy for a while and then really slow.
Last time it was busy we had an extra full time person, and he started complaining of not getting his hours when it became slow again. This is an ongoing problem for the RT bosses here.

How improved staffing would effect a larger hospital, I'm not sure. I would theorize a chronic complainer will find something new to criticize.

Do you think improved staffing would stop the RN complainers?

Unknown said...

This is a much older post but I just have to comment on it! lol. Complainers are the most common types of RT's and sadly no matter how many changes are made, they NEVER STOP COMPLAINING. For instance (and I've said this in another comment) that my hospital recently changes to protocols. Before the protocols were implemented, they would complain about the "useless" breathing treatments and frequencies ordered by doctors and how their work was undermined because of it." Now that the protocols have been implemented, it requires waaaay too much work, doctors order what they want anyway, and now they spend entirely too much time assessing and re-assessing patients. GIVE ME A BREAK! I like the new protocols because it gives us a chance to actually do what we learn in school, assess our patients correctly, and treat them accordingly. When docs override our tx's and discontinue the protocol orders, instead of just complaining we are required to report that. And while it may not have stopped all of the docs from doing so, it has stopped some. And little by little, I think that we are making progress slowly but surely. It just hit me though, that the real reason we probably don't gain the respect and recognition we seek is because the majority of us continue to complain (even about changes that are made to get us closer to our goals!) It is similar to beating a dead horse, no matter how many times u beat him he will not wake up. The complainers will NEVER stop complaining!! We must learn to work around them without actually joining them. That is the hard part lol.

Rick Frea said...

Really appreciate your comment. I wrote such a protocol for my department. The people most likely to complain about useless breathing treatments shot it down because "it would just result in more work for us." I would like to talk to you more about this. If interested, please use the contact icon on this page, or message me on facebook. Thanks much!!!