RTs can use all the help they can get when building their careers, and RT departments can be a great source of support. But, of course, not all departments are equally created when it comes to growing their staff’s professional goals and objectives.
Kim Bennion, MsHs, RRT, CHC, director of respiratory care research at Intermountain Healthcare in Salt Lake City, UT, David Pogue, RRT, director of respiratory care at Major Hospital in Shelbyville, IN, and Jack Fried, MA, RRT, a retired RT with years of experience managing the RT department at St. Marks Hospital in Salt Lake City, UT, believe mentoring is an essential component of any RT manager’s role.
Gaining the most traction
“I feel our greatest impact has been the ongoing mentoring that we offer,” said Bennion. “This is where I feel we gain the most traction.” At Intermountain Healthcare, mentoring begins as soon as the RT student steps into the department for their clinical rotations, and that can range from simply advising them on goals to including them in research studies.
From there, it’s up to the new student or new employee, or even veteran of the field, to make the most of it.
“Most employees want to grow and expand their professional knowledge and experience,” said Bennion. “We spend more time on the motivated ones than those who are happy just clocking in and clocking out. That sounds harsh, but we have found we get a bigger bang for the buck spending resources — human and financial — on keeping our highly motivated employees growing.”
The department also provides one-to-one mentoring for existing managers and directors to assist with succession planning, and they share AARC leadership initiatives with those staff members who would like to become leaders in the future.
“We encourage new ideas for expanding RT roles and support RTs as they make the magic happen,” she said.
Small hospital success
You don’t have to work in a large organization to receive mentoring. For example, Major Hospital is a small facility about 30 miles outside of Indianapolis and typically has an RT staff of about 20-24, including eight PRN staff.
“We have four leadership personnel, with one of them being the manager,” said David Pogue.
Every few months, he gets together with staff to discuss new ideas or ownership items and to offer up ownership items to those who would like to take them on or take them over from someone else who has been managing them for a while.
Dedicating this time to staff development has paid off for the department.
“We have had three staff go from CRT to RRT,” said Pogue. “We have about 80% of our staff intubation-approved through our intubation program.”
The department has also been able to start a home NIV program that allows staff to step out of traditional roles. They currently see about 140 patients through the program.
“We are working on a professional ladder to try to get the therapists who have stepped up and taken on a higher level of responsibility better compensation,” he continued. “The higher skill level our therapists work at, the more respect our department earns.”
Ten minutes makes a difference
Jack Fried says mentoring was a big part of the monthly meetings he held with his staff members over his years in management, and he did it not just to help his staff succeed. It helped him keep his RTs in the department.
“I spent at least ten minutes every month with every employee,” he said. “While ten minutes with 40 people eat a lot of time, it is less time and inconvenience than
recruiting, interviewing, and hiring.”
During these sessions, he asked staff members to share their career goals, the progress they felt they were making, and the help they needed to reach the finish line.
“This focus, along with questions about what was working, what was not working, suggestions, and who should be recognized, kept turnover to a minimum,” said Fried. “Reduced turnover means therapists who know what others need, not just other therapists. They know the needs and wants of nurses, physicians, rehab therapists, and imaging personnel.”
Having this veteran staff on hand helped raise the stature of RTs in the hospital.
“Because therapist turnover was as low as it was, physicians often asked for their assistance to support new nurses,” said Fried.
When it came time for him to retire, all the mentoring he had done over the years made the transition easy. Thanks to the extra time he devoted to his staff, he says the adult coordinator was well prepared to take over as director, and another therapist on staff was ready to step into the adult coordinator role.
“Not everyone has specific goals, and that is fine,” said Fried. “But having mentoring available reduces turnover and augments succession planning.”
Payback worth it
Taking the time to develop staff members to their full potential may seem daunting in an environment where every minute seems to be already accounted for, but as these managers show, the payback can be great. You will have more highly skilled staff members and reduce your turnover and ensure your department is prepared to move forward even after you’re gone.