This summer I spent about 6 days in Arizona visiting for a national Respiratory Care conference called the Summer Forum run by the American Association of Respiratory Care (AARC). During the Forum I had the privilege of hearing hospital managers and Respiratory Therapy program educators speak from all over the nation about different topics concerning our growing field. Not only that, but the last 2 days of the conference I was welcomed as an intern to sit in and participate during the AARC’s Semi-annual House of Delegates meeting where they discuss concerns and ways to better our field into the future.
My understanding of myself in the aspect of what my future held, and what I am capable of has changed since my STEP project. Previously, I thought that I had career options in my field of respiratory, but this week spent at the Summer Forum really broadened my vision of how unique I could really make my career path and all of the different ways, like so many leaders there, that I could push myself to be someone who makes an impact. I have grown a motivation and vision to be someone who makes a career out of what I’m passionate about and who looks past any limitations. Two things that really helped transform my mindset were my participation and involvement in the House of Delegates meeting and the networking I did there. The House of Delegates meeting really showed me a different side to leadership in respiratory therapy and allowed me to experience so many other people who are equally, if not more, passionate that I am about this field. Similarly, networking with so many people from a wide range of career backgrounds was really encouraging; I learned that I don’t have to know exactly where I want to end up in my career just yet, but that I should definitely keep my mind open and not be afraid to stand up for myself and be creative with my degree in RT. I have been encouraged and grown a new sense of motivation and passion for my future in respiratory therapy.
During the House of Delegates meeting, there was a specific meeting among the Executive Board where the board members got together aside from the rest of the delegates to seriously discuss some of the bigger topics, like the decision to possibly require a bachelor’s degree to work as an RT. Some of these topics were loaded with controversy, questions, and road blocks. The Board discussed all of these and tried to agree (via voting) on what next steps the organization would take in different topics brought up. It was eye-opening how formal the process had to be and how important it was throughout the entire conference to hear every side and to make the environment as open as possible to hearing each contribution. There were multiple instances during the House of Delegates meeting that they opened to everyone present to ask a burning question, express a thought or concern, or just to give an opinion about something being discussed. This made me feel like there was an appreciation for not only every leader in the room whom obviously have a lot of input from their experience, but also the floor was open to me, as a student, and I was able to go up to the mic and pitch my ideas multiple times. It said a lot about the people in the organization and in our field in general that they wanted to hear what I had to say as the upcoming generation into the workforce.
Both of my program directors were not only present that week for the chain of events, but they were very involved in speaking, presenting, moderating, and discussing topics for debate among others. Because of their mass amount of involvement with the AARC and other major organizations, they were able to introduce me some influential characters. One was the president of the AARC at the time (his term ended this past month). I was put in a position to discuss his very unique career path and to ask about his personal clinical and professional experiences, and to hear his input on some of the different things I had been considering for my future, things I had been learning about in school, and different evidence-based practices. Not only this, but he and many of his executive board members offered, and pleaded, for me to even come shadow or come work for them across the nation.
I also had conversations with the now current president of the AARC. She and I talked about many different opportunities that she is involved with, specifically about this missions trip to Ghana that she runs a couple times a year for the last decade. She informed me about this opportunity to travel to an exotic place, teach and train people across that country about respiratory therapy, practice clinically among many developing facilities in a foreign country, and contribute to the global community in these ways all while simultaneously fundraising food and goods to bring there with us for the impoverished. She was obviously so passionate about using her background in respiratory therapy and experiences to lead in creative ways and give back to the people across the world, while also giving back to our field in promoting the importance of respiratory therapy.
My entire experience at the AARC’s Summer Forum and House of Delegates meeting transformed some of personal and career goals and the way I will go about pursuing my future. Meeting so many different leaders and hearing their stories encouraged me to go with the flow more on my career path and to be open to different opportunities that come my way. They taught me to not be too stressed out about the specifics, but to let my passion drive me towards my dream career, whatever that may be. My vision for the field I’m choosing to pursue has changed in terms of how much hard work so many people do for Respiratory Therapy behind the scenes and how many different roles are available to pick up. Because of the broader vision I have for my future, I plan to be more creative in looking for different options along my career path and choose to pursue roles that I’m passionate about so I can continue to hold to my values while also leading in contributions in patient care and RT.