If you're a respiratory therapist (RT), you've developed skills to help you do your job, and do it well. If not, well, the chances are you won't go far in this profession. Some skills can be taught and are essential to becoming a good RT. Some skills, however, are learned, and are essential if you want to be more than just an RT.
There are two different types of skills: hard skills and soft skills.
What are hard skills? These are skills that can be taught and that you can improve with experience. These include the following:
- Setting up and managing ventilators
- Doing breathing treatments
- Charting on a computer
- Performing electrocardiography (EKGs)
- Doing arterial blood gases (ABGs)
- Setting up oxygen
- Performing a patient assessment
What are soft skills? These are skills that help you get along with other people, and adapt to different situations, and help you move up the ladder of a therapy professional. These are your personal attributes, like:
- Common sense
- Sense of humor
- Prioritizing (time management)
- Strong work ethic
- Critical thinking (problem solving)
- Self confidence in being a respiratory therapist
- Ability to accept criticism
- Ability to learn from criticism
- Flexibility (adaptability)
- Working well under pressure
Since anyone can be taught hard skills, it's soft skills that separate the clan. Anyone can do a breathing treatment on Mrs. Cox, but only a few can get her to like you. Anybody can set up a ventilator, but only a few can gain the confidence of rough Dr. Bowersocks.
Anyone can join the gossip tree, yet it takes one with character and integrity to find something better to do. Anyone can join the complainers, yet it takes one with a sense of humor to laugh it off. Anyone can be a treatment jockey, yet it takes someone with empathy and good communication skills to truly benefit the patient.
There are a ton of treatments and EKGs to do in a short period of time. Do you have a sense of urgency to properly prioritize and finish all your work so the next shift isn't overwhelmed?
Can you get into a conversation with any patient? Can you have a discussion with the complainers one moment and then an optimistic discussion with your boss the next? Can you make any doctor or patient happy? Does everyone like you? If so, then you have good soft skills.
So anyone can learn hard skills to get you the therapy job, yet learning the soft skills needed to keep your job is something only YOU can work on.
If your boss ever decides to get rid of a few respiratory therapists to downsize the respiratory therapy department, the people he or she is most likely to keep are those with good soft skills. Likewise, he's also more likely to consider those with soft skills for advanced assignments that might make you management material.
About the Author: Rick Frea is a licensed and Registered Respiratory Therapist and author of the Respiratory Therapy Cave. He provides some wonderful content for those in the profession of respiratory therapy, or those seeking to learn more about the profession. He paints a realistic picture of life as a respiratory therapist with a unique blend of irreverent humor, clinical experience, career development and advice for new RTs. He's also a lifetime severe, persistent asthmatic and asthma dad who shares his experiences at Hardluck Asthma." He also writes a weekly column as an asthma expert for healthcentral.com/asthma.
Click here for more information and articles by Rick Frea.
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