Champions of Care

Vol. 15 •Issue 9 • Page 52
Champions of Care

Congratulations to the Best in Respiratory 2006 Winners

ADVANCE is proud to present the winners of its sixth annual National Respiratory Achievement Awards Competition. They represent the best of what the field has to offer and should be applauded for a job well done.

Let’s get to know them a little more.

Best manager

His name is common. His actions are not.

At age 42, John Smith, BS, RRT, CPFT, has spent half his life in the respiratory field and a whopping 20 of those years in management.

Six months after graduation, Smith landed a job as night supervisor at a Pittsburgh hospital. “I was lucky to get that,” he said with a laugh. “Not many people want to work an 80-hour week of nights.”

Since then, he has moved on to slightly more humane hours, as well as a balmier climate. Smith now serves as clinical coordinator of respiratory care and pulmonary rehabilitation at Naples Community Hospital in Naples, Fla.

“He is an outstanding clinician, educator, and communicator,” summed up Scott Wiley, MBA, RRT, director of cardiopulmonary services, in his nominating essay. “John is clearly a role model.”

Smith has diligently worked to empower fellow respiratory therapists and increase positive patient outcomes since joining Naples in March 2000.

The facility’s consult service, which he’s largely responsible for implementing, allows RTs to automatically determine the most appropriate care plan and initiate the right therapy without delay.

In addition, he has helped the department redesign the medication delivery system so all drugs stay stored on a locked cart. “We had carried the meds in our pockets like most folks have done for the longest time,” Smith explained. “Now, everything is secure.”

A computer accompanies the cart, allowing for bar code scanning and real-time charting. “99.9 percent of our documentation is online,” he said.

Numbers still need crunching, but Smith anticipates the new system will show shorter length of stays and better responses to therapy.

The dedicated RT further improves efficiency by focusing on staff education. He has developed an annual needs assessment survey to create a respiratory education calendar. The hospital provides a minimum of 14 free continuing education units for the staff during National Respiratory Care Week, as well as another 12 CEUs throughout the year.

“They don’t have to go anywhere else to maintain their license,” Smith said.

He also challenges staff members on a monthly basis with lectures and quizzes and mentors them with one-on-one instruction.

Smith’s insights, work ethic, and innovations make his contributions to Naples and the respiratory community at large invaluable.

“When John is not around,” Wiley wrote, “everyone knows it.”

Away from the office, Smith likes to spend his little free time with his three daughters and wife, walking on the sunny Florida beaches, and playing and coaching softball.

Best practitioner

A dedicated healer, sympathetic communicator, and formidable multitasker wins our nod as best practitioner for 2006.

To this “long” list of assets, Lynn Long, RRT, RCP, brings one more bonus: a decorous dash of humility.

“I’m really honored,” said Long, 43, team coordinator for the respiratory care department at Marion General Hospital, in Marion, Ohio. “I know there are many really dedicated, knowledgeable therapists out there. Travis just makes it easy to be able to do my job well.”

Travis Grasley, MA, RRT, Long’s manager, did indeed wax effusive on his staffer’s talents and abilities. “Because of Lynn’s caring heart and high performance standards, her efforts have been recognized and praised by administration, co-workers, and patients alike,” he wrote.

He praised Long’s bedside manner, in which she manages to give a therapy, chart it on a small laptop computer, and educate, comfort, and encourage her patient, almost at the same time.

“I think you can’t ever forget that patients are people,” Long said. “You can make someone’s hospital stay by your attitude and how you respond to them.”

Long’s career path began 16 years ago. She was a military wife living in Jacksonville, Fla., going for a bachelor’s degree in nursing. “We got the opportunity to move back home (to Ohio), but I couldn’t afford to enroll in the local nursing program,” she explained. Instead, she enrolled in the respiratory care program at Columbus State Community College and has never looked back.

Asked what she likes about the profession, she said: “I enjoy critical care situations and the fact that we work so independently. It’s wonderful to assist someone to breathe better, be it a code or an asthma attack. Helping someone in such an obvious way is awesome.”

Besides her normal duties, Long serves as a member of a hospital task force that ensures all smoking patients receive smoking cessation education prior to discharge. Thanks to the task force, 98 percent of Marion General’s patients receive cessation counseling, and 40 percent remain nicotine-free at 90 days post-discharge — an impressive result for a wickedly difficult addiction.

Long is ready to move up in the ranks of her department and take on administrative responsibilities, but she never wants to lose that direct contact with patients or other staff members.

Her advice to students and new therapists echoes her own work ethic. “Good communication skills are an absolute must,” she said. “You must be able to prioritize your workload according to importance. You really have to understand the basics of respiratory care and have good critical thinking skills. Never think you know too much to learn or that you’re too old to learn. Always be open.”

Best department

Our best department for 2006 contains some of the finest RTs in the nation. They exhibit intelligence, talent, strong work ethic, and commitment to the profession, all of the qualities every caregiver strives toward. Just one problem: They have no idea how good they are at providing all aspects of respiratory care.

That’s the chief reason nominator Sally Whitten, RRT, manager of respiratory care, was determined to bring Maine Medical Center’s (MMC) therapists national recognition.

“The staff here is really crackerjack, and we’re proud of their work,” she said. “In terms of skill, knowledge, dedication, and professionalism, I’d be willing to compare them to any respiratory care department. Occasionally, our therapists may not recognize just how skilled they are. I want them to know how much we value them.”

“I would echo that,” said Christopher Hirsch, MPH, RRT, director of pulmonary services. Pulmonary services also includes the Maine Sleep Institute, which is fully staffed by RTs. “Our practitioners are drawn to the critical care and academic environment offered at MMC that is usually only found in a much larger city. Here they have all that and the coast of Maine.”

MMC, a 606-bed facility located in Portland, is a premier referral hospital for Northern New England. The division of pulmonary and critical care medicine has five pulmonary fellows and is a key teaching site for two respiratory therapy schools in the region.

The department organizes the Paul Cox, MD, Memorial Conference (locally known as the Mud Season Conference), drawing attendees from across the region. Proceeds provide funding for staff to attend regional and national conferences at little or no personal cost.

In the nomination, the facility’s newly instituted clinical ladder and strong staff involvement highlighted its many achievements. RTs serve and frequently chair multidisciplinary efforts such as the rapid response team, long-term ventilator rounds, ventilator-associated pneumonia task force, and emergency room asthma intervention program. They’re also heavily involved in an asthma summer camp program.

MMC’s progressive patient safety program remains one of their main initiatives, said Jeff Brown, RRT, level II staff therapist. He points out two of their keys to success: “We try to keep the workloads manageable, and the staff works together as a team.”

At a roundtable interview, MMC staff was elated to have won the competition. “It’s great! We never expected this,” said Sally Brewer, RRT-NPS, staff development specialist. “When there are so many open RT positions throughout the country, it says a lot that much of our staff has been here more than 10 years.”

For Faythe Henry, RRT-NPS, level III staff therapist, her approach to care is guided by a golden rule: “I go in every day doing the best I can, knowing I’d want my loved ones taken care of that way too.”

At MMC, safe, family-centered care also means patients’ loved ones are allowed into the room during a code to see the efforts the staff is making on their behalf.

Carrie Smart, RRT, level II staff therapist, recalled a situation involving a failed resuscitation effort of a young patient where the family members were present. Afterward, his mother thanked and hugged everyone in the room. “As difficult as the whole process was, that was a touching moment,” she said.

MMC has earned a number of recent accolades, including Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing and one of the 100 Most Wired Hospitals in 2006, fourth in the Consumer Reports “50 Exceptional U.S. Hospitals” list in 2005, and one of Solucient’s Top 100 U.S. Cardiovascular Hospitals in 2004.

Mike Bederka is senior associate editor, Michael Gibbons is senior associate editor, and Shawn Proctor is associate editor of ADVANCE.