I see a lot of posts from students and new grad RT’s worried about getting a job. As an educator, part of my job was to orient new students and make sure they have what they need to be successful in the clinic setting. I know that life as a student can be busy, intimidating, sleepless, and overwhelming. But many times as I sat on the panel of interviewers, I remember some students more than others. And if I am interviewing you and you were not a student of mine, you’ll have to do double duty to tell me what you know.
If I had one piece of advice for students, it would be this: Be Eager. I know you don’t want to outshine your RT clinical mentor for the day, but we already know how he or she operates. And if you are going to operate in the same way, at least imitate someone who is also eager to learn. Finding you in the break room reading a novel or People magazine does nothing for me. Finding you in the break room reading your notes, using your flash cards, or picking another RT’s brain is a good thing. Even if you are exhausted, pretend to be very interested in an article in RT magazine or Advance for RT’s. You will score points.
Leave your phone in your locker. For. The. Entire. Shift.
When there is a code, ask if you can go. If there is a bronchoscopy, ask if you can watch. If there is an intubation or an ABG in a different area, ask if you can go from your area to observe. Many states prohibit students from drawing ABG’s, but ask if you can learn how to run them.
Is there an equipment tech at your clinical site? Ask to spend some time learning how to strip, clean, and put together equipment properly. You will learn a lot about how things work.
Slow day? Studying done? Ask what else is going on that you could observe. Think outside the department. If it’s painfully slow, could you go with an EKG tech for an hour or 2? Watch a Pulmonary Function test in progress? When it’s 130PM, you’ve had lunch, all your Q6’s are done, and you have nothing to do until 3:00, go down to ER. Find the ER tech or the EMT. Pick their brain, you will learn a whole lot.
And don’t forget to document that you spent time with all these fabulous people. And let shift supervisors and educators and managers know that you did.
Is there a Pulmonary Rehab program at your facility? Or a sleep department? See if you can spend some time there as well. A well-rounded RT is a valuable RT.
Now, what if you’ve already graduated? And there are no local jobs? How do you keep your skills up?
If moving or being a traveler RT is not possible, you may be part of a registry. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on what areas you cover. Too much time as a registry RT might mean it’s been a while since you handled ICU and ventilators. The remedy for this is to spend your downtime on a registry shift hanging out in ICU or ED. Offer to help. You are working as a registry, so go to codes if only to observe. Observe what? How does the team work together. Where did the crash cart come from. Where did the RN have to go to get a suction setup? Do they need a vent? Will they transport the patient to a different unit? Where is the transport ventilator? Will they bag instead? Do they need a tank? These are all good points for a student as well.
What if there are NO RT or registry jobs available? You can always volunteer. I know, you probably went back to your old job for the time being. But even volunteering one hour a day, or 4-5 hours on a Saturday or Sunday, helps us know you really want to keep your skills up. Talk to the department manager. Even if you volunteer to clean equipment for one hour here and there, if you do it with a smile and spend some time learning in intricacies of each ventilator or BiPap, you will be ahead of the curve.
There are also Pulmonology offices that might let you volunteer to do something. Even a Primary Care MD might have a spirometer you can run for the RN. Six minute walk tests eat up a lot of time in a doctor’s office. Volunteer to do those. You could even volunteer to do the LVN’s job: vitals and pulse oximetry. Every good RT should know how to get a BP, temp, HR, POx reading, and keep up the skill of talking to all different types of patients.
If you are still striking out, ask about going on local EMT or Paramedic runs with an ambulance company or the fire department.
And if none of the above is possible, there are a lot of interactive websites by ventilator companies. If you only learned the 840, the V60, and the AVEA during your schooling, get on Maquet’s website and learn their ventilators. Most offer CEU’s as well!