RTs Expand the Profession’s Reach

 Published: February 13, 2019

By: Heather Willden


Photo of Ryan Sharkey (second from left) with colleagues in China
Ryan Sharkey (second from left) with colleagues (L to R) Zheng Zheng Zhang, Sun Xin, and JinHao Tao in China.

Ryan M. Sharkey, MSc, RRT, RRT-NPS, has been traveling to China once a year for the past three years to help expand the knowledge and practice of respiratory care in China. His primary focus is helping develop a Pediatric Respiratory Therapy Training Program with Dr. Jinhao Tao, MD at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University.

Photo of Huiqing Ge & Ryan Sharkey
Huiqing Ge & Ryan Sharkey

Sharkey teamed up with Daniel D. Rowley, MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, RPFT, FAARC to work on developing this program. Huiqing Ge, MSc, the Director of the Respiratory Therapy Department at Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, China coordinated conferences and collaborated with other hospitals for both Sharkey and Rowley.

“My motivation for returning every year is the clinicians in China are enthusiastic and committed to learning,” Sharkey said. “The excitement that so many of the clinicians have reminds me of how exciting learning is and that they appreciate shared knowledge.”

Getting started

As an AARC Fellow, in 2017 Dr. Tao visited the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania and University of Virginia Children’s Hospital to learn how respiratory therapists work within a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). According to Sharkey, these visits gave Dr. Tao the opportunity to begin building a program in China. He took what he learned from his visits back to his hospital and began building a team of six nurses and three physicians to become the respiratory therapists in the PICU.

“Dr. Tao’s expertise in mechanical ventilation make him a great medical director of the respiratory therapy training program,” Sharkey said.

Since then, the PICU at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University has hired two bachelor’s degree-prepared respiratory therapists who recently graduated from Huaxi University in Chengdu, China.

“The addition of these respiratory therapists will help improve the practice of respiratory care in the hospital and the quality of the respiratory therapy training program,” Sharkey said.

Personalizing the program

Sharkey supports the development of the program by providing respiratory-therapy-driven guidelines and protocols to Dr. Tao so he can build the program to fit the practice at his hospital.

“Creating a program based on the needs of a hospital in the United States would not be successful in China,” Sharkey said. “Allowing Dr. Tao to lead the program and build it to the needs of his hospital in China will be more successful than adapting an Americanized model to a Chinese hospital.”

During his visits, Sharkey helps deliver presentations to other hospital staff members. He also facilitates simulations for them to have hands-on learning.

“As the team at Children’s Hospital of Fudan University become more comfortable in their roles as respiratory therapists, they will invite clinicians from other hospitals around China to learn the art and science of respiratory care in the PICU at the Children’s Hospital of Fudan University,” Sharkey said.

Tips for getting involved

For Sharkey, AARC Congress is the “best way to network with international clinicians to develop relationships that pave the way for collaboration.”

Sharkey explains that AARC Congress invites these international clinicians to learn and present research. They also get the chance to provide an update on the state of respiratory care in their country at the International Council for Respiratory Care’s annual business meeting.

Biggest takeaway

Sharkey finds the level of commitment to education and inquisitiveness from every clinician he has met in China inspiring.

“They want to learn and implement new strategies,” Sharkey said.


Have you seen the new website for the International Council for Respiratory Care?
Check out the new ICRC site!

Email newsroom@aarc.org 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.

Heading to the New Era

Elevate | Engage | Advocate | Educate

Copyright © 2024 American Association for Respiratory Care
9425 N. MacArthur Blvd, Suite 100, Irving, TX 75063-4706
(972) 243-2272  |  info@aarc.org