Vol. 21 •Issue 18 • Page 24
New England Region
Opportunities Abound as Technology Advances
New England is truly bursting with top-notch medical facilities that take prominent positions in every national “best of” competition annually. Even therapists and sleep techs who have never visited the region have heard of highly regarded places like Massachusetts General, Maine Medical Center, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg in the world-class medical care category available.
Those facilities and many more serve well the 14.1 million Americans who make their homes in the six northeastern states made famous by autumn’s spectacular bursts of color. New England is a diverse region with legendary mountain ranges, fertile farmland and busy coastal seaports. Dominant in the region is Massachusetts with 6.4 million residents, many of them centered in the cosmopolitan Boston area.
In keeping pace with the rest of the nation, New England therapists and sleep techs can expect to see a strong demand for their services. The Conference Board, a non-profit
employment research group, reported in July that health care still leads occupations in the highest demand and commands the highest wages.
That demand will come from treating the cardiopulmonary needs of a growing middle-aged and elderly population and the increasing need to treat premature babies, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
Added to the mix will be expanded duties in areas like case management, disease prevention, emergency care and early detection of pulmonary disorders.
But that’s only part of the picture. As advances are unveiled in inhalable medications and treatment for lung transplant patients and heart attack and accident victims, there will be an increased demand for services in these areas as well.
Most respiratory care job openings (roughly 70 percent) will continue to be in hospitals, but an uptick can be expected in home health care, physician offices and respiratory product sales, according to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition.
One quick look at the emerging data will shed some light on the scope of the opportunities ahead. As of early August, the United Network for Organ Sharing reported 99,242 people currently await organ transplants nationally.
To help meet the needs of some of them, many hospitals throughout the New England region have created specialized transplant centers. About the only transplant procedure not currently offered in any of the six states is a combined heart-lung transplant.
It’s no secret more people arrive in ERs today than in the past. What’s escaping notice is the average wait time to see a physician is nearly an hour today, up from 38 minutes a decade ago. This can be attributed to a 32 percent increase in ER visits from 1996 to 2006 (from 90 million to 119 million) and a decrease in the number of ERs available to treat them.
Here again is an opportunity for therapists to shine by using their skills to help cut that time, especially for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma patients.
Meanwhile, more than 500,000 babies are born prematurely in the U.S., and many will need expensive, labor-intensive ventilator care. New England states can expect to see a fair share of these babies.
Advances in technology have significantly reduced the infant mortality rate for premature infants; but to offset that, there has been “profound long-term consequences in public health policy and costs,” noted columnist Mike King earlier this year.
His comments were based on a study published in March in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which cited the average cost for a typical newborn as $1,700; but for a preemie housed in a neonatal intensive care unit, the average charge is $77,000, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.
Other forces will be at work in this region as it is elsewhere when elderly therapists and techs in the workforce hit retirement age and leave their posts, opening jobs for a new generation.
Take some time to explore employment opportunities in New England. In the process, imagine yourself sailing Rhode Island’s bays, exploring the White Mountains of Vermont, hiking the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire, tapping sugar maples in Maine, visiting the site of the Boston Tea Party or skiing the slopes in Connecticut.
All of this can be yours if you can meet the spirit of adventure which has traditionally made this region strong.
Physicians and hospital staff rely on and embrace therapists in Connecticut, noted Jeffrey Borges, RRT, CHT, department coordinator at Bridgeport Hospital in Bridgeport.
“(We are) a contributing member to the critical care team and practice with a certain level of autonomy and respect,” added Borges, president of the Connecticut Society for Respiratory Care, which now exceeds a robust 800 members.
Another reason to head to the Constitution State may be its relatively rosy economic outlook.
Despite continuing pressure driven by increasing costs, Connecticut’s acute care hospitals had modest financial gains during fiscal year 2007, according to the state’s Office of Health Care Access. The statewide average total profit margin improved from 2.64 percent in 2006 to 3.6 percent last year.
Mean Hourly Wage in Connecticut: $27.37
Mean Annual Salary: $56,930
For David Kissin, BS, RRT, CPFT, his adopted state of Maine has “wonderful beaches, great shorelines, the best skiing in the East and a safe environment. I’ve lived in a lot of places, and this is the best place I’ve found to raise kids.”
Maine also boasts the “world’s best seafood, straight from the boat,” said Kissin, a staff therapist at Maine Medical Center, Portland.
With 6,000 lakes, 32,000 miles of rivers, 5,000 miles of coast, 17 million acres of forestland and Cadillac Mountain rising above it all, the Pine Tree State has natural diversity to spare. Indoor enthusiasts can delight in big-city arts and cultural events in Portland or enjoy the unique charm of Bar Harbor.
“Whether it’s hunting, fishing, hiking, the arts, the coast or the mountains, there’s a community here for you,” said Elaine Murray, president of the Maine Society for Respiratory Care.
For RTs, Maine offers “a variety of challenging and diverse work environments ranging from trauma centers and sleep diagnostics to the family-owned-and-operated DME,” added Murray, a therapist at Maine General Medical Center in Augusta.
Kissin agreed. “Opportunities abound for RTs in outlying hospitals, acute care facilities, regional medical centers, tertiary care, home care and in smaller facilities,” he said.
Mean Hourly Wage in Maine: $23.91
Mean Annual Salary: $49,720
Donald Bellerive, MA, RRT, supervisor of Critical Care at UMass Memorial in Worcester, has lived in Massachusetts his entire life and resides within 20 minutes of his extended family.
He loves the diversity in the types of care around the Bay State. “The state itself is driven by biotechnology and medical care, so this is a perfect career for your entire life,” Bellerive said.
A rare combination of premier hospitals and universities makes Massachusetts an intellectual mecca with its principle industries centering on computers and technology, medical research, education and financial services. The state is home to more than 64 colleges and universities, among them such highly regarded institutions as Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Daniel J. Barrieau, RRT, CPFT, director of Respiratory Care at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, agreed.
“We are out there on the forefront in health care,” he said. “Within an hour’s drive from here, there are two major teaching hospitals, at least 10 community hospitals, two rehab hospitals and two LTACs. That’s a lot of opportunities for therapists to work and learn in different settings.”
RTs here enjoy a hard-working and vibrant state respiratory society, Bellerive added. “They are a proactive organization and the strength is our membership, which grows every year.”
Outside of Boston, the urban center of the region, Massachusetts has more than 80 beaches along 1,500 miles of shoreline on the Atlantic coast.
Two of the most famous beaches are located on the offshore islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, with others on Cape Cod, Cape Ann and the shore areas north and south of Boston.
Mean Hourly Wage in Massachusetts: $27.65
Mean Annual Salary: $57,520
New Hampshire, with its close proximity to Maine, Vermont and Canada’s Province of Quebec, has “a fascinating mix of cultures and outlooks,” according to the state’s Web site.
One great natural resource in the Granite State is the Great North Woods, offering sporting adventures like hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, boating, wildlife-watching and snowmobiling. Thanks to the mountainous terrain and numerous rivers and streams, the state has more than 100 waterfalls.
As for culture, the Verizon Wireless Arena, the Currier Museum of Art, the Capitol Center and the Stone Church all bring music, art and theater from around the world to New Hampshire.
The state is also home to one of the nation’s most renowned health care institutions: Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), the state’s only academic medical center. DHMC promotes itself as integrating “high-quality patient care, advanced medical education and translational research to provide a full spectrum of health care.”
DHMC is located on a 225-acre campus in the heart of the Upper Connecticut River Valley in Lebanon.
Mean Hourly Wage in New Hampshire: $26.32
Mean Annual Salary: $54,750
RTs benefit from Rhode Island’s diminutive size. “Everyone knows everyone, so to speak, so many of the local hospitals work together to provide quality patient care,” said Craig Tucker, BS, RRT, staff therapist at Rhode Island Hospital/Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence.
Employed at the only Level 1 adult and pediatric trauma center in southern New England, Tucker and his colleagues have the chance to see a wide variety of patients.
“I have picked up a lot of experience in a short time,” said Tucker, a five-year respiratory vet and lifelong Rhode Island resident.
He plans on sticking around for a while and believes other therapists have ample opportunities in the Ocean State.
Health care is one of the state’s “expanding industries,” according to the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training. The projected employment for hospitals should jump 12.9 percent between 2004 and 2014.
Mean Hourly Wage in Rhode Island: $25.70
Mean Annual Salary: $53,450
Lovers of the great outdoors will find much to enjoy in the Green Mountain State, said lifelong Vermonter Greg Ward, RRT, manager of Respiratory Care, PFT, Sleep and Neurodiagnostics at Copley Health System in Morrisville.
“It’s a place where you can work three days a week and have four days to enjoy the outdoor life,” he said. “You can have your own land and walk out your back door to go hiking in any of the four seasons.”
Though ranked 49th in state population, Vermont has developed thriving industries in the Burlington and Rutland areas, the state’s most populous regions.
Vermont has a diverse economy that includes manufacturing, services, tourism, agriculture, wood products, mining, publishing, finance and insurance.
Patient care in one of the larger teaching hospitals mirrors the level of care available in other states. However, in a smaller hospital, RTs can expect to cross-train in other areas, including sleep medicine, cardiac care and pulmonary rehab.
“Your knowledge is very utilized,” said Ward, a junior delegate for the Vermont/New Hampshire Society for Respiratory Care.
Mean Hourly Wage in Vermont: $24.71
Mean Annual Salary: $51,410
Salary information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-09 Edition, Respiratory Therapists. Available from: URL: www.bls.gov/oco/ocos084.htm.