There are an estimated 2000 Respiratory Therapists that hold an honorable place in the profession: 30+ years of experience and service, but: we never found the time to get our Bachelor of Science degree.
With my experience, I have been elevated to rank of Clinical Educator, and now business owner, educating RT’s with subject matter deemed worthy by the CSRC and AARC, and deemed very necessary by me.
I’ve worked at total of 6 hospitals full time in my career. Plus other side jobs such as registry, transport, adjunct faculty for RT schools, medical device companies, outpatient pulmonary rehab, and more.
Before you jump in to tell me all about online programs, let me tell you about my current schedule to keep an education business afloat on top of a part time position and a per diem educator gig I got asked to do.
I know, I should have seen this coming. I thought for years about detouring to PA school, but couldn’t find the time to do that, either. Between full time work and side work and overtime all winter, every winter, a marriage, a kid, a divorce, single mom-hood, and whatever else life threw at me, going to school just didn’t have a time slot. More importantly, I was learning something new every day at work, and loving every minute of it. I was genuinely helping people, able to flex my schedule for patients, take students along for the ride, and teach clinicals and be a resource to many. Why ruin it with (yawn) school? I think of all the nights I stayed late to help out the crazy- busy ER. All the days I came in early or stayed late to accommodate patients that were red-lined in to the OR. All the times on my supposed day off the ambulance company called me to please transport a ventilator kid from point A to point B. In my view, that education was far more valuable than me saying, “sorry I can’t stay, I have sit through my online courses!”. I am not discounting the BS requirement, in fact, I support it fully for those going in to the profession. But for some of us, the window of time is gone, and we chose to learn hands-on, by doing. And doing and doing and doing.
And what is it I will garner from a BS degree that I didn’t learn along the way in my practice?
Levy –Jennings graphs? Don’t mix an ABG with an air bubble in it? How to get involved in management? How the supply-chain works? When an ABG machine needs a cartridge change versus a simple rinse because hemoglobin is sticky? How to start, and run, a Pulmonary Rehab program from scratch? Been there, done it…. Cost-saving measures? Show me your equipment and supplies inventory and I will save you one million dollars on the spot. Show me documentation for 10 ventilator patients and I will show you immediate deficiencies in your staff’s knowledge base of patient/ventilator systems.
And, according to College of American Pathologists I am qualified to put blood through an ABG machine, but not pleural fluid into the same machine and *gasp* push a different button, simply because I do not possess a BS degree.
Does experience count for anything? Does my 35 years of holding a wide variety of positions count more than, say, someone who has been a staff RT for the same amount of time? Does my resume of 6 pages even begin to speak to what I have learned over the years, things I feel are sorely missing from these new grads proudly parading their online degrees with all of 3 years of experience? Yet, I am not hire-able anymore, due to possessing a mere Bachelor of Arts degree. If I send out my resume, bots will discard it because it does not contain the coveted letters it is programmed to search for first.
What do I need to show to prove I have the same knowledge as a new grad?
Suppose I did spend $13K and completed the online BS degreee. What would that grant me now? A promotion and a $4 raise? The ability to be a manager? Right at this moment, I am right where I want to be. The CSRC and AARC seem to think I know what I am talking about in my seminars and online courses I have published. My patients appreciate my contributions at their Better Breathers Club meetings. The only thing missing is the ability to teach RT curriculum at a community college – even though I taught classroom and clinicals for several years. The basics don’t really change.
So quit telling me I am too old, that I lack a BS degree, or the smarts to run a pleural fluid pH test. I’ll leave this profession and retire when I’m darn good and ready, which, God-willing, won’t be for a while.