Moving Ahead in Pandemic Year No. 2
When the vaccines first began to go into arms in late 2020, everyone had high hopes that 2021 would be the year we put the pandemic behind us. After months of rising case counts and overfilled ICUs, no one was happier to think the end was near than respiratory therapists. They were exhausted and sometimes burned out too, and the idea that the new year would bring respite from the deluge of patients was soothing to their souls.
This cautious optimism continued into the early months of 2021. Yet, as new variants emerged, it soon became apparent that COVID-19 was not going away anytime soon.
RTs took a deep breath and forged ahead, delivering the care patients needed to battle COVID-19 while still ensuring quality care for the other respiratory patients who needed their help as well. The AARC was with them every step of the way.
“The AARC’s main mission is to support the practice of respiratory care and the respiratory therapists who deliver that care on the front lines every day of the year,” said AARC President Sheri Tooley, BSRT, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, CPFT, FAARC. “2021 was another year full of challenges for RTs, and as their professional organization, we remained dedicated to ensuring they had the resources needed to accomplish their goals.”
This annual report highlights just some of the ways the AARC was there for RTs in 2021.
Growing the profession
Last fall, the AARC Board of Directors approved a recommendation to set aside up to $5 million to invest in building a stronger AARC. Beginning with creating a blueprint for a strategic plan, we are focused on building stronger connections with our members, providing greater value with resources and tools, and advocating for the RT profession. Our ultimate goals are to increase member satisfaction and to both retain and grow membership. AARC will continue to offer robust educational programs, as well as focus on refining CPGs and protocols, influencing and collaborating with stakeholders, and, ultimately, elevating the profession.
The AARC exists to help members and the profession, and we will take a stronger, more active role in accomplishing this effort. The past couple of years have brought to light many concerns and needs felt by our members. The AARC has heard these concerns and will continue to gain explicit and continuous understanding through this initiative and investment of the Board of Directors.
It goes without saying that supporting RTs through the COVID-19 pandemic took center stage at the AARC in 2021. The Association worked on numerous levels to recognize the sacrifices being made by therapists and made sure the RT’s voice was heard as the nation continued to grapple with the virus.
The efforts got started early in the year with the launch of the COVID-19 RT Fund. The Board of Directors made grants of $500 each available to the surviving families of licensed respiratory therapists who died while caring for patients with COVID-19.
The American Respiratory Care Foundation pitched in to donate two commemorative blocks in the AARC Virtual Museum in honor of these therapists, one for the RT’s family and one for the RT’s employer.
After the Houston Rockets saw a tweet on the AARC’s Twitter account, the Association had the chance to work with the Texas Society for Respiratory Care to honor RTs at a Houston Rocket’s game as well.
Thanks to industry partner Medtronic, the Association also made a video highlighting the role RTs are playing in the pandemic. The video, called #RTSTRONG, was updated later in the year to ask the public to get vaccinated.
During National Respiratory Care Week, October 24 – 30, AARC successfully worked with Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) to introduce a bipartisan Resolution recognizing the outstanding contributions of respiratory therapists in patient care.
Taking the lead in clinical care
The AARC was there to help guide clinical care for COVID-19 patients too.
President-Elect Carl Hinkson, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, FAARC, and former AARC President Brian Walsh, PhD, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, RPFT, AE-C, FAARC, represented respiratory therapists on an American Heart Association panel charged with creating guidance on the delivery of basic and advanced life support to patients with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
The Association teamed up with the Society for Critical Care Medicine on two fronts. First, the two organizations called for critical care volunteers to provide telehealth support to patients with COVID-19 as part of a U.S. Army program. Then they worked together to host a live webcast on ARDS and COVID-19.
The AARC joined several other organizations in supporting a proposal by CMS to expand the coverage of oxygen and oxygen equipment in the home, signed on to a statement supporting mandated vaccines, applauded President Biden’s approval of RTs to administer vaccines, and partnered with the COVID-19 Vaccine Education and Equity Project to help educate and encourage the public to do their part in ending the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through a joint letter with over 100 other organizations, the Association urged governors to maintain and expand licensure flexibilities enacted at the start of the pandemic to better address ongoing patient needs as well.
MoreRTs.com tackles workforce shortages
Licensure flexibilities were sorely needed because RTs were in short supply even before COVID-19, and there definitely weren’t enough out there to handle something as big as a global pandemic.
The AARC decided it was time to make this a priority issue and teamed up with the NBRC and CoARC on a joint marketing campaign dubbed “The World Needs More RTs.”
Designed as a multi-year endeavor, the campaign aims to enhance the image of the profession and recruit and retain therapists and shape future leaders in the field.
Last year, the campaign hosted a contest designed to gather video stories from therapists across the country about the lifesaving work they do every day on the job. You can see the winning videos and learn more about how the three leading organizations in respiratory care are working to enhance the RT workforce at MoreRTs.com.
Uniform Reporting Manual gets a makeover
For decades now, respiratory care departments have relied on the AARC’s Uniform Reporting Manual for accurate time standards to apply to their productivity systems.
Last year, the AARC decided to update the document and give it a new name. Now known as The Safe & Effective Staffing Guide, or just “The Guide,” for short, the document includes updated procedural time standards, along with new sections focusing on case studies in productivity and how to integrate your productivity system within your EMR, and the introduction of a new value proposition for RTs called Value-Efficiency.
Furthermore, The Guide was made available online for quick updating for subscribers. The AARC also included two subscription levels for added flexibility to meet subscriber needs and preferences.
The Newsroom Debuts
Getting news and information out to members in the timeliest way possible was behind the development of The Newsroom on AARC.org.
The new platform launched at the beginning of 2021, with all of the news and features members had come to expect from AARC Times magazine, plus a whole lot more.
In addition to text stories, The Newsroom features videos and podcasts, and it’s all easy to find on the AARC website.
Content in The Newsroom is delivered to AARC members every week in an AARC News email that provides direct links to all the features and stories.
The success of The Newsroom shows how the AARC membership has made a smooth transition from print to digital media and Association leaders expect that easy transition to be repeated next year when our science journal, Respiratory Care, goes all-digital as well.
Virtual events continue
When 2021 dawned in January, the AARC was hoping to be able to host both a live Summer Forum and a live AARC Congress.
Once again, the pandemic intervened, and as the months wore on, it became clear it would be another year of virtual meetings. Thankfully the Association was able to build on the successful virtual events it hosted in 2020, and both meetings went off without a hitch.
The Summer Forum saw leaders, managers, and educators come together for sessions featuring everything from a State of the Profession and Agency Update to individual presentations on the hottest topics in management and education.
The AARC Congress followed suit with more hot topics, including many related to care during the pandemic and a full roster of Congress activities like the Annual Awards Ceremony.
Attendees also got to hear the first ever Robert M. Kacmarek Lecture, one of three plenary sessions at the Congress every year. The lecture, previously known as the Donald F. Egan Scientific Memorial Lecture, was renamed in honor of Dr. Kacmarek after his death on April 1 of last year.
Another live event that was hoped for in 2021 went virtual as well, as the AARC harnessed the power of email and social media to lobby Congress during the Virtual Advocacy Campaign that kicked off in late April and ran into May.
Through the campaign, 5,010 advocates sent 40,862 emails, 1,832 tweets, and 99 Facebook shares to members of Congress. More than 120 virtual meetings were held as well, with post-meeting reports indicating broad support for the AARC’s legislative agenda.
The two key pieces of legislation included in the campaign were —
- The CONNECT for Health Act, which would improve access to respiratory therapists to provide telehealth in innovative payment models being tested by CMS.
- The Allied Health Workforce Diversity (AHWD) Act, which aims to help recruit, enroll, and retain students from ethnic and racial minorities, disadvantaged backgrounds, and those with disabilities in accredited respiratory care programs.
10 more things the AARC accomplished for you in 2021
What else was the Association up to in 2021? Here’s a top 10 countdown of member services the Association produced last year —
- Updated our coding guidelines for respiratory and pulmonary services and procedures and, for the first time, made this document a members-only benefit.
- Worked with the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation and the American Thoracic Society (ATS) to advocate for the expansion of virtual pulmonary rehabilitation services and other issues important to the pulmonary rehabilitation community, including an expansion of pulmonary rehabilitation services to patients with long-COVID, a virtual option for the direct supervision requirement, and new CPT codes.
- Activated the AARC Disaster Relief Fund for members affected by a number of weather-related events across the country. The Fund, which is supported by generous donors in the respiratory care community, awards grants of up to $1,000 to members living in officially declared disaster areas who have suffered property losses due to these events.
- Co-signed a letter to the director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) outlining steps the innovation center can take to achieve its “full potential as an agent of patient-centered system transformation.” Created by the Affordable Care Act, CMMI tests new health care payment and delivery models intended to improve health care quality and strengthen cost efficiency.
- Announced a newly created position in the AARC Executive Office to oversee the development of clinical practice guidelines. Lynda Goodfellow, EdD, RRT, AE-C, FAARC, took on the role of director of clinical practice guideline development in the fall.
- Participated in a Technical Expert Panel along with the American College of Chest Physicians, American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the ATS to review the scientific evidence on the optimal use of noninvasive ventilation. The paper was published in CHEST and used to make recommendations to CMS aimed at the revision of outdated policies.
- Advocated for a boost in the classification level of RTs with the Office of Personnel Management to better ensure its level is in line with the elevated level recently established by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
- Appointed Samantha Davis, MS, RRT, RRT-NPS, CHSE, to represent the AARC in an Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) working group aimed at reviewing and revising the 2016 IPEC competencies. The goal of the IPEC is to improve collaborative practice and enhance team-based patient care.
- Worked with the International Council for Respiratory Care to translate two AARC Clinical Practice Guidelines into Italian. The guidelines, which were published early this year, deal with the effectiveness of pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic airway clearance therapies in hospitalized patients.
- Created an autopay feature on AARC.org to make it easier for members to renew their memberships. The AARC IT team created a digital membership card via the AARC App.
2021 AARC Annual Financial Report
In February 2022, the AARC engaged the public accounting firm of Howard, LLP to conduct an audit of its financial operations. They issued an unqualified opinion stating that the AARC’s financial statements were presented fairly and conform to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP).
In 2021, AARC’s total revenue was $9,108,815 and total expenses were $8,451,267. Figures 1 and 2 highlight the sources of revenue and expenses.
*In 2021, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program, also known as the PPP. This program was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Acts (CARES) to provide economic assistance for small businesses. AARC’s PPP is not subject to repayment.
Proud to serve
The AARC was proud to serve all of its hardworking members in 2021 as they once again worked to overcome unimaginable challenges in caring for their patients during a global pandemic. As this annual report shows, the Association remained dedicated to members, working to amplify the profession, and supporting RTs everywhere.
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