Everyday Heroes

Vol. 21 •Issue 22 • Page 12
Everyday Heroes

Respiratory Care Practitioners Go For the Gold in Their Profession

For eight years now, ADVANCE has celebrated the best the field has to offer with our National Respiratory Achievement Awards.

This year’s crop of standouts continues the trend of excellence, and we issue a hardy congrats to all the winners.

Best Manager

To help solve problems during off hours, many members of the respiratory staff can call Beverly Natale, BS, RRT, on her cell phone. They also have her home and pager numbers, her husband’s cell and even the digits for her mother’s house down the shore.

“I avail myself 24/7,” said Natale, the manager of Respiratory Care Services at Morristown Memorial Hospital, Morristown, N.J., and Overlook Hospital, Summit, N.J. “I like to think that I have a very open-door policy.”

With such accessibility and dedication to her craft, it should come as no surprise that the 24-year respiratory veteran receives the utmost respect from her peers.

“Beverly has a way of making everyone feel special and comfortable no matter what the circumstances,” described Michael Cantine, BS, RRT, CPFT, lead respiratory care practitioner at Morristown, in his nomination essay. “Like one staff member puts it, ‘I felt like saying thank you to her after a disciplinary action.’”

Through her encouragement, respiratory care participates in a Professional Advancement Clinic Tracks program. Therapists can develop their professional, clinical, educational and leadership skills to boost their careers and promote the field’s overall image.

“Beverly is the quintessential respiratory care manager,” Cantine wrote. “She embodies the spirit of the profession by always supporting innovative and professional-enhancing programs and initiatives.”

Natale remains modest amid all the praise. “I firmly believe that I work for my staff,” she said. “My report card is based on their feedback and evaluation of me.”

No doubt, she’ll earn straight A’s.

Best Practitioner

This year’s Best Practitioner has a heart as big as the Lone Star State he represents.

“The reward is unlimited when you do something for patients,” said Ali Soujoudi, BS, RRT, a transport therapist at Methodist Children’s Hospital in San Antonio. “When we transport premature infants, we have to do almost everything: intubate, deliver surfactant, do ABGs and more. We assure parents their babies will be fine. When they give us that smile, it makes us feel so good that they trust us.”

Soujoudi has mastered many skills in his nine years in the field, including PFTs, bronchoscopy assistance, transport medicine, pediatric-neonatal care, even assisting anesthesiologists. He expresses gratitude to his manager, medical director and co-workers for their help over the years.

“I’ve been trained well and have great support from my teammates,” he said. “They’ve given me confidence. Every day I am learning. I never tell myself, ‘I don’t need to learn more.’ You need to keep your eyes and ears open and learn, learn, learn.”

His colleagues are quick to return the compliment. “The best word that describes Ali is ‘integrity,’” said fellow transport therapist Rita Leonowicz, RRT-NPS. “He comes to work happy and goes above and beyond in showing compassion to his patients. He has a positive attitude and is always willing to help in any way possible, not only his co-workers, but other staff as well.”

Soujoudi has expanded the role of RTs at Methodist Children’s, largely because “he is well-liked and trusted by the physicians,” she said. Soujoudi, 46, frequently travels to referring hospitals to teach airway and asthma management, oxygen therapy and other procedures to those who care for pediatric patients and neonates.

“We want them to be on the same page with us so they can provide primary care until we get there (if the baby needs to be transported to Methodist Children’s),” he said.

Soujoudi may become a physician assistant in the future. Or he may pursue a master’s degree with an eye toward entering management. He had some managerial advice for students and graduates just entering the field he loves: Students on clinical rotations “should learn how to identify abnormalities on an X-ray or how to interpret ABG results. Ask questions. Don’t just come in for eight to 12 hours and leave without gaining anything.”

Those already in the field “should have a great attitude,” he said. “Don’t bring problems from home to work. Don’t complain about your salary. Try to respect everybody. Prove yourself through your deeds.”

A proud American citizen born and raised in Iran, Soujoudi thanked his wife, Ellen Sue Soujoudi, RN, for her great support.

Best Department

Granting every staff member a voice in the respiratory department’s vision has proven key to Morristown Memorial Hospital’s success.

The 629-bed facility, which earned honorable mention in our contest last year, incorporates concepts of shared governance to allow respiratory care staff to be more involved, responsible and accountable for their department’s day-to-day operations.

They participate in councils for education, customer satisfaction and evidence-based best practices. Council members perform literature searches and survey other hospitals before coming to a consensus and making recommendations to an executive council.

“To get the best opinions and information, we reach out to those who live and breathe the topics under consideration,” said Ben Cortese, RRT, respiratory coordinator. “Everyone has the patient’s care right up front in his or her mind. This ensures we have a policy and procedure a staff person can rely on any time of day.”

Morristown Memorial’s RTs work hard. The facility throws a National Respiratory Care Week worthy of their dedication. The highlight includes Respiratory Idol Awards, voted on by the staff, to recognize therapists who consistently go above the call of duty. Often physicians and respiratory nurses will buy lunch for the department to show their appreciation.

As a member of the customer satisfaction council, Michael Cantine, BS, RRT, CPFT, lead respiratory care practitioner, said the members know the importance of the celebration. “We make it a big deal with food, awards and giveaways,” he said. “It is a creative way to recognize our staff.”

The department acknowledges employees beyond Respiratory Care Week as well, selecting a practitioner of the month and passing out door prizes at staff meetings. And outside the facility’s walls, RTs from Morristown Memorial have turned heads by winning the State Society Respiratory Therapist of the Year award in 2006 and 2007.