From time to time I hear from RRTs who have a variety of concerns about teaching student RTs.  I think one of the reasons for this is that it is often a role that we have not taken on before.  One day we are a squeaky clean new grad and before we know it, we have a fresh-faced student (or group of students) following us around.  This can be daunting  because most of us know – at least on some level – that teaching is more than merely sharing knowledge about a series of clinical skills, and that student don’t just learn from us at the bedside.  It is through their interactions with staff RRTs that student RTs also learn about professionalism, as well as professional values and identity.

Imagine two very different scenarios. In the first situation, a student RT is exposed to staff RRTs who seem to work well together, and who engage in a positive manner with their patients/patient’s families and with the other healthcare professionals.  Overall, these RRTs have a positive attitude about their profession and the valuable role they play as part of the healthcare team – and they seem to genuinely like having the students around.  In the other clinical rotation, the student observes the RRTs telling unflattering stories about their coworkers, colleagues and patients, and complaining constantly that they are not respected or treated fairly by their employer.  Depending on which of those two scenarios the student finds themselves in, they will walk away with a very different picture of how RRTs act, interact and what it means to be a Respiratory Therapist.

I don’t think any student expects to be surrounded by rainbows and puppy dogs every day during their clinical rotations.  The pace and stressors of the job can sometimes make it challenging for staff RRTs to shelter a student from some of the more unpleasant realities of clinical practice.  However, we all need to remember that the student we teach today may well working beside us or taking care of us tomorrow. Thinking back to those two scenarios – which introduction to the profession will you hope they had?