Is it Time for a New Respiratory Care Profession?
Respiratory care needs another rung on the career ladder, and there is no better time than now for respiratory care practitioners to start the climb, according Deniese S. LeBlanc, RRT, director of respiratory care at Stony Brook University Medical Center, N.Y.
LeBlanc gave a late afternoon lecture Monday at the AARC Congress 2011 in Tampa titled "An Advanced RCP With Prescriptive Rights ... The Journey Begins" that received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from attendees.
Few opportunities currently exist for vertical advancement in respiratory care, LeBlanc said, and the field is "losing its best and brightest to other disciplines." When talented RTs look five years down the road and can't see a clinical path to professional growth, they often detour toward other careers as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, or they leave direct patient care altogether for the sales and marketing arena.
But what if a new direction - in fact a new profession - was available for RTs who want to elevate their skills and become a physician extender specifically trained in cardiopulmonary science?
In the hospital, let's say, this new physician extender position could allow RTs to optimize ventilation protocols, deliver conscious sedation with bronchoscopy, and perform central line insertions. In the outpatient setting, they could educate asthma and COPD patients, be authorized to write prescriptions and order pulmonary function tests, and perform necessary follow-ups. LeBlanc offered a long list of other responsibilities that could fall under an advanced RCP's scope of practice based on their extra education and experience.
The respiratory care program at Stony Brook University has taken the first steps toward creating this new profession. A rigorous master's of science degree curriculum with an emphasis on advanced clinical practice is in development. And plans are under way to present the concept of an advanced RCP with prescriptive rights for respiratory services to the New York State Department of Education's licensure board.
LeBlanc conducted a survey of 2,500 RTs in New York showed that out of 355 responders, 71 percent feel there are limited advancement opportunities in the respiratory care profession, and 56 percent expressed interest in attending an advanced clinical practice master's program.
She also identified other stakeholders within her hospital's community and gauged possible resistance from colleagues such as NPs and PAs. "The feeling out there is that we're all so busy, and so much work needs to be done in health care," LeBlanc said. "We can offer a niche market that doesn't step on others' toes ... There is room for all of us, and the time to move is now."
LeBlanc encouraged the audience to go back to their own programs and institutions and explore the feasibility of creating a new professional role of an advanced respiratory care practitioner with prescriptive rights.
The eagerness in the room was palpable. "This is the most exciting thing since NIV," said one audience member, who was followed by others who called it a, "brilliant idea," and "absolutely wonderful initiative."
If you're looking for a place to go in the respiratory care profession, will you jump on the bandwagon?