States Engaging Students

 Published: October 24, 2018

By: Heather Willden


Scenes from the Arizona State Student Conference
Students take part in fun activities, such as this “MacGyver Exercise,” at the Arizona Student Conference. These students used random items to make a working bubble humidifier out of a water bottle, straw, high flow oxygen tubing, and a mask. The activity showcased their teamwork, communication, and time management skills.

Plain and simple, students are the future and are vital members of the AARC. These early professionals will steer the profession and association through its continued course. How are you engaging with your student members, helping them feel connected and motivated to stay involved?

Ashley Feighery, BHA, RRT, Corin Walters, MSHE, RRT, RCP, AE-C, and Pamela M. Artibey, Ed.D., RRT-NPS, from the Arizona Society of Respiratory Care helped organize a conference just for students. This unique event helps the society connect with its student members and strengthen these relationships.

About the student conference

Going on seven years now, the student conference is designed for respiratory students throughout the state of Arizona.

According to Feighery, Walters, and Artibey, they “tailor the conference around what can make the student more successful.”

The conference addresses the professional needs of the students. To accomplish this, participants:

  • Review interview techniques.
  • Learn tips for writing a resume.
  • Take part in a panel of speakers from different non-traditional respiratory roles, such as Case Managers, Industry, Instructors, Vascular Access, Quality, and Non-profit.
  • Collaborate in fun, respiratory-related games.
  • Hear from patients discussing how respiratory therapy has affected their lives.
  • Enjoy lunch and raffle prizes (pulse oximeters, stethoscopes, books).
  • Visit with colleges to learn about their four-year programs.
Scenes from the Arizona State Student Conference
College visitors at the Arizona Student Conference.

Closing out the agenda is a message from a recent student who has been working in the field for the last year, sharing their story of their path to success.

Giving students what they need

“We needed a conference that focused specifically on students and getting them to understand their career choice as a profession and not a job,” said the organizers Feighery, Walters, and Artibey.

The group discussed how Feighery, who is currently the manager of health promotions for the American Lung Association, first went to the student conference when she was in a program and became involved with the AzSRC in her second year of RT school. She enjoyed the student conference so much that she has co-led it with Walters for the last four years.

“This conference gives the students exactly what they need to feel confident in the choice they made to become an RT,” Feighery said.

Scenes from the Arizona State Student Conference
Scenes from the Arizona State Student Conference

Build connections

The primary goals for the conference are to help students:

  • Have what they need for success in the field.
  • Know they are supported by the AzSRC and the AARC.
  • Understand what is needed to become licensed in the state of Arizona.
  • Learn more about the Arizona Board of Examiners

The Conference allows students to ask questions. They also get the chance to meet with other RT students that they may work with, leaders in the field, and members of the AzSRC.

Student response

Last year the AzSRC had a total of 217 students, a significant growth from their original conference attendance of 70 students. The conference planning team also includes a student member, helping the team determine relevant content to meet student needs each year. Held in the spring, the conference also serves as a platform to promote the sputum bowl and get students excited about the competition.

According to the organizers Feighery, Walters, and Artibey, the conference is so well-liked by the schools in Arizona that it will continue for years to come.

Here’s what students had to say:

“I really enjoyed the student conference. It will really help me be successful in my career. Thank you.” –Student Attendee

“The conference was fantastic. Thank you for inviting the four-year colleges and giving me the opportunity to learn about so many careers paths RT’s can be in.” –Student Attendee

“I was able to attend the conference last year as a first-year student and I was so excited to learn more. I really feel confident in my career choice and this conference has given me the tools I need to be successful and I feel supported.” –Student Attendee

Tips for your own conference

  • Build a strong relationship and get buy-in from the schools, so that you can get students to the conference.
  • Find a venue and invite a school to host. For Arizona, this has been a great partnership opportunity.
  • Make it affordable. Arizona currently does not charge vendors to participate in the conference; however, they do ask for a donation or prize to add to their raffle. They charge students $25 to attend, which is usually covered by the schools.
  • Include a student member in your planning team and use their input.
  • Start a student committee.
  • Visit the schools and start talking with the students about how they feel about the AARC and State Society. Ask what they believe they need more of from the groups.
  • Include a theme. Arizona usually follows the national theme.
  • Reach out to Arizona and ask for help! They would be more than happy to give you more tips and suggestions to get you on your way to a successful student conference.

One final thought from Feighery, Walters, and Artibey: “Start small and see how it goes, and I think you will find it very rewarding.”

Scenes from the Arizona State Student Conference
Scenes from the Arizona Student Conference

Looking for more resources?

Check out the Student Section of the AARC website.

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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