On being the new RT on the block

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Leah Crawford wanted a career that was challenging, had plenty of variety, and would put her problem-solving skills to the test. As a newly graduated Registered Respiratory Therapist, Leah is already beginning to see how her career path has led her into one of the most dynamic and challenging front-line health care professions.

“It is not uncommon to attend a cardiac arrest playing a key role in airway management through intubation, within the same morning attend a c-section delivery in order to assess a neonate in respiratory distress, only to be called to the ICU in the afternoon to work with a multidisciplinary team initiating life support systems on a patient with a brain injury,” said Leah.

It was exactly this opportunity to work with a variety of complex patient care cases that first attracted Leah to being a Respiratory Therapist. “When I was looking at the role of the RT, it was exciting to think there were so many different areas to work in, from the emergency ward to working with newborns and pediatric to home-care and rehabilitation,” she said.

Leah credits the structure of the three-year Respiratory Therapy Program at Toronto’s Michener Institute, which she entered right after high school, with giving her with the knowledge and confidence to succeed in the kind of intense, front-line work she is now practicing as a recently graduated Respiratory Therapist.

The first few weeks of school took some adjustment, she said. Leah was among only a few in the program that were coming straight from high school, while a majority of the students were university graduates.

She spent the first two years of the program in the classroom, studying to expand her knowledge of the profession. Leah describes her experience as “challenging in the sense that I knew I was going to be dealing with human lives and that I would never face the same experience twice. I was taught how to use critical thinking and ethics when dealing with patients and colleagues,” she said.

Leah spent her third year in a clinical setting, which she says was essential in helping her make a smooth transition from school to starting her career. “You are treated like a colleague and you have people to assist you and offer a safety net,” she said. “When you finish the clinical year, you feel more secure about your role and ready to move on.”

“I remember thinking, I want to go to university, and I’m interested in the health care field, so I’m really glad my guidance councilor suggested looking at the Michener RT program,” said Leah. “I am so excited about the future and feel good about going into this field.”

Leah Crawford, Registered Respiratory Therapist, works at the William Osler-Brampton Hosptal.