How to Be an RT Influencer

Image of doctors high-fiving each other

You hear plenty of buzz talk these days about “influencers” — people who have an outsized effect on what other people think and do. Most of these folks are consciously plying their influence on social media, but informal influencers are present on the job every day too.

How can you become a person others in your department look up to and follow? And what’s the right way to go about it? RT managers offer their take on RT influencers and what they mean to the smooth operation of their departments.

The keyword is “positive”

“An influencer is someone that others go to for advice and feedback,” said Dana W. Stauffer, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, LSSBB, director of respiratory care at Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. “They are even-keeled, self-aware, and don’t have any ulterior motives.”

He says many times these people aren’t even aware of the impact they have on their peers. But the team views them as someone who is “in the know.” They genuinely care about their coworkers, and they want everyone to be successful, regardless of position or title. “Influencers are positive individuals and bring solutions to the problems at hand,” he said. “They manage others up and will frequently recognize others, tying their actions to patient outcomes.”

Joanna Hudak, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, respiratory care and pulmonary diagnostics manager at Sentara Leigh Hospital in Norfolk, VA, agrees.

“An RT influencer is a respiratory therapist who consistently promotes the RT profession in a positive manner on a daily basis both while at work and when out in the community,” she said.

She emphasizes, though, that “positive” is the operative word in her statement. RT departments can have negative influencers, and those folks do their careers way more harm than good. “Those are the RTs to steer clear from. They are the RTs who complain constantly about their job, their pay, their schedule, the leadership, and their workload,” she said.

Mary Lou Guy, MBA, RRT, manager of pulmonary services at Saint Luke’s North Hospital in Kansas City, MO, sees both sides of this coin as well. “There are positive and negative influencers in any group,” she said. ”One hopes, for the group’s benefit, that the positives far outweigh the negatives, but that isn’t always the truth.”

She cites the adages of “being careful who you hang out with” and “one bad apple spoils the barrel” to drive home her point.

Great advice

So how can you become a positive influencer in your department? These three managers offer this advice —

Be naturally inquisitive; when asking questions, you show motivation and demonstrate the humility needed to influence others. No one likes a know-it-all. Be consistent in what you do and how you show up. If you only show an interest periodically or in things that are “cool” or “sexy,” I’m probably not going to place as much stock in what you say. I’m looking for someone that can give me the real deal on what’s going on at the tip of the spear. — Dana Stauffer

They need to be someone who is viewed as an informal leader in their current role if they are at a staff level. This is inclusive of having positive working relationships with physicians, peers, and leadership. They will choose patient safety over all else in their professional practice. They are the RTs that set a good example for others to follow, such as coming to work with a “Happy and Can Do” attitude. They speak about their peers and leadership consistently in a positive manner. They bring awareness to any concerns they have in the proper manner, and they avoid speaking badly or criticizing peers’ work performance openly. They belong to their professional organization and strive to continue to educate themselves and freely share their knowledge and skills with others. — Joanne Hudak

I believe positive influencers have a steady moral compass they follow. They are not in the “game” for fame or power. They are self-assured in their knowledge and share freely without expectation of receiving back. They listen carefully, are open to suggestions and change. They support the mission and goals of the department. They step up for committees, projects, and services and surround themselves with the positives while avoiding the negatives. They are the cheerleader for change that is needed. They seek mentoring and mentor others. — Mary Lou Guy

Good vibrations

There is no doubt that RT influencers exist in the respiratory care profession, and when the vibes they spread are good ones, they raise their chances for success on the job. But even more importantly, they raise the stature of their department as a whole as well. A little positive energy can indeed go a long way in moving things in the right direction for everyone.

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