Knowing When to Lead, and When to Follow

team of respiratory therapists
Self-confidence is a sought-after quality in respiratory therapists, and every department out there is seeking those types of RTs to fill their positions. Indeed, therapists must be confident in their own abilities to deliver the kind of high-quality care their patients deserve.

But self-confidence can be a double-edged sword as well, especially for those who are new to the job. When it extends into over-confidence it can even derail a promising career.

Brian Cayko, MBA, RRT, FAARC, offers up his own experience as proof.

Full of ideas

“As a younger therapist, newer to the field, I was often frustrated with feeling stuck in my position,” he said.

He was full of ideas for making things better in his department and he had the energy and vigor to make them happen. But the department he worked for didn’t even seem interested in hearing more about them.

The situation could have easily led to disillusionment, apathy, and even a quick exit from the field he had trained for. Fortunately, Cayko decided to go down another path instead.

“I was faced with three choices,” he says. “The first, giving up, was not an option for me, and it shouldn’t be for any of you either. The second, was to continue to bang my head against the wall in frustration while I became a nagging pain to my co-workers and supervisors. Third, I could advance my education while patiently continuing to excel at providing quality patient care and be a good employee to my boss and coworkers at the same time.”

Picking option number three wasn’t easy — Cayko admits it’s his nature to fight against taking a submissive role — but it was the right one for him. And it started with admitting to himself that he was in the position he was in for good reason.

“I had more to learn about taking orders before I could handle the responsibility of giving them,” he said.

Lesson learned

That attitude adjustment paid off. Instead of continuing to rage against the machine, he hunkered down, listened to his superiors, did a great job, and put in the time it would take to advance his education.

Today Cayko serves as director of clinical education for the respiratory care program at Montana State University-Great Falls, where he helps to mold the next generation of RTs into the kind of therapists he himself has become.

He often harkens back to that early experience with his own over-confidence when dealing with his students.

“It was a learning moment that I am grateful to have been graced with,” he said. “Now, as an educator and leader in our respiratory community, I keep this in mind when handling younger therapists I mentor, as well as in the back of my mind whenever I work with those in authority over me. It is a lesson learned that I sometimes have to put into practice from time to time still today.”

Heading to the New Era

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