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Friday, May 29, 2009

Is it true respiratory therapists get no respect?

Your question: I am thinking about becoming a RT and I was reading some blogs on the Internet (which weren't as good as yours). And a couple said that RTs get no respect. Is that true?

My humble answer: I think one of the best pieces of advice I can give you when trying to decide what career path to follow is simply this: follow your heart. If you want to become an RT, become an RT. Don't NOT choose this profession because some of the most heard voices are cynical.

Where I work the RTs are respected as well as any of the other professions. We are a part of the patient care team, and we are among the first people called upon when a patient is having trouble breathing, or is otherwise not looking quite right. Our expertise and opinion are considered as frequently as those of any other profession.

Now I'm not going to say everything is perfect in this field. There are many stupid doctor orders, for example.  You cannot tell me that every person with pneumonia really needs Ventolin every 4-6 hours. Yet one must also consider the politics of the matter, as many insurance companies and CMS require these procedures to be completed in order to meet reimbursement criteria.

Plus you can't fault physicians for believing in myths that are often more believable than facts. That's just the way the medical profession is.  In the medical profession, it often takes ten, a hundred, or even a thousand, years for a new idea to become accepted.  Just think of all the old wive's tales that are still worshiped as the Bible by mothers and grandmothers.  The medical profession is no different.

Still, you must consider that this profession is relatively new compared to nursing. While the nursing profession in America has been around since the Civil War,and nursing in general since the beginning of time, our profession only started with a polio epidemic in the 1950s. So this is a relatively new profession. Those who complain often forget this simple fact, or didn't know it.

One of the neat things about being an RT today is we are part of the RT revolution. While RTs used to be hired as on the job trainees, we now have to endure two years of respiratory therapy school.  By the time we earn our degrees and certificates we know more about the lungs than most doctors.  We definitely know more about respiratory therapy medicine than they do, which is why I think RT driven protocols are idea.

Slowly but surely doctors and nurses are realizing how great an asset we RTs are to the  institutions.  As this happens we RTs are earning respect, and also earning more responsibility. In many larger hospitals protocols allow RTs to assess and treat patients without an order even being written. In fact, in many states RTs have gained the same respect as nursing by requiring RTs to be licensed.

Where I work we are a little behind some of these hospitals, but we are slowly catching up. In fact, my fellow co-workers and I recently worked with a fellow physician in creating new RT driven protocols. This was only made possible to to respect for our profession.  We earned this respect by educating ourselves and by our hard work. We impressed upon our co-workers through out wisdom and compitence.

Sure there are irritating aspects about this profession.  Many respiratory therapists become apathetic, yet this is true of any profession that works with the public.  No matter where you work their will be apathetic, burned out complainers.  In the end, however, a career is what you make of it.

Personally, I love helping people catch their breath, and I love teaching them how they can improve their lives. I also love the challenge of making this a better profession than it was when I entered it.

I also like bantering with my patients.  I also like it that when you get your work done you can do things that you like to do, like read a book, kiss butt, gossip, or blog.

Bottom line, this is a good profession that pays the bills. If you like taking care of people, if you like a challenge, then respiratory therapy may be the best career choice for you. 

Respect is something that must be earned. You can earn it independently by working hard, and you can earn it by being part of a great team.  You can also earn it by any means that makes a good impression upon the respiratory therapy profession, which can be accomplished simply by doing a good job.


Anonymous said...

Well said, good sir. Well said.

Anonymous said...

Every career is what you make it. If you are a grumpy complaining respiratory therapist who never vocalizes with Dr's when the therapy ordered is not appropriate, or you are the therapist who actually answers when a nurse calls you "hey respiratory" you get what you deserve; No recognition. If you go in to work with a positive attitude and you speak to everyone, laugh with a few co-workers in the dept. when you go chart it can be fun and much easier to tolerate the shift. The key is to not let the dooms dayer's drag you to the pity party! I have been an RRT for going on 6 years and have recently decided to get my B.S. and try to get into Medical School. I know that my experience in the field has been well worth the few times I felt like I was under respected by mainly nurses. I always just smile when they piss me off and am oh so happy to say, hey RN the pt. in room 112 needs their poopy adult diaper changed!

SrJunco said...

Nonsense, in my thirty years as an RT, I started, after serving our military, and thought I'd continue in the medical field, but had no desire to be an RN. So I became an RT. My enthusiasm was thoroughly crushed by poor skilled RNs trumping the majority of my assertions, craven, synchophitic RT department head's cowtowing the vast majority of the time, and hospital administrative staff trying to get RT's to preform servile services for nurses, "because they're busy". Without caveat, I strongly wish to deter anyone wishing to enter a career path, respiratory therapy is poor paying and guarantees third class status in the medical field.