Monday, August 21, 2017

Seven Deadly Sins of Respiratory Care

Fear

Do or do not.  There is no try.


"Fear is the path to the Dark Side.  Fear leads to anger.  Anger leads to hate.  Hate leads to suffering."

                                                                               --Jedi Master Yoda

We're afraid.

It's not something we want to hear as therapists, but it's time for some tough talk about the future of respiratory care.  Fear seems to stalk the background of much of what we do as a profession.  We're afraid of alienating other professions, so we don't fight for stronger license protections.  We're afraid of alienating small pockets of old-school, on-the-job trained therapists, so we drag our feet when it comes to fixing our desperately broken credentialling system.  We certainly seem to be afraid of leaving the shelter of our relative anonymity, and instead are content to lurk in the shadows of healthcare where nobody knows our name.

Why? 

We know that we improve outcomes and efficiency when our expertise and knowledge are put to use.  So why don't we put that knowledge to use, and toot our own horn more?  

Some of it seems to be rooted in the darker parts of the profession that we don't like to talk about, like those parts where treatments are given because it's too much trouble to go against a nurse or doctor who orders unnecessary aerosols.  It's so much easier to just go with the flow.  Who needs to have their day or night ruined with conflict?  Better to not rock the boat, and just blow some albuterol that (probably) won't hurt.  Unfortunately, while this fear doesn't necessarily lead to anger or hate, it most certainly leads to suffering, because conflict avoidance becomes a part of our professional culture.  If we don't want to make one nurse mad by questioning their suggestion, we sure don't want to make ALL of them mad by declaring certain therapies off-limits, right?

It doesn't take a Jedi master to see how this mindset holds us back.  Many of our licenses are relatively toothless, allowing nurses, EMTs and other disciplines to take jobs away from respiratory therapists and relegating us to afterthought clinicians in when it comes time for "system redesigns" and other cost-cutting measures.  It's also yet another barrier standing in the way of us making bigger strides in the outpatient sector, a place we'll sorely need for expansion over the next decade.

We need to start working right now to cast aside fear and embrace our inner Jedi Knight.  We must stand courageous in the face of adversity, and not shy away from (respectful) conflicts with our fellow clinicians.  Nobody is going to give us the things we want and need to survive as a profession, so let act boldly, and let fortune favor the bold.

Originally published July 27, 2015