In July 2011, an RT from central Ohio launched an ambitious project: The National Alliance for Respiratory Care Professionals (NARCP). I discovered the alliance on Facebook while browsing through various respiratory care pages and e-mailed Tyler Richards, MBA, RRT, the founder, to learn more. I had lots of questions: Why did he start the alliance? If his goal is to increase awareness, how does he propose to do that? Do we need another respiratory care organization? Isn’t AARC doing the job?
Richards responded that, although respiratory therapists are some of the most talented of health professionals, they are among the least known. There is, he says, “very little room to grow and advance in this field” compared to other health professionals. One of the alliance’s goals is for RTs to have options to become advance cardiopulmonary practitioners who function much like physician assistants. He argues that RTs should be case managers and educators, but there very few jobs for RTs in these positions. In fact, he said, postings for asthma educators or smoking cessation counselors, managers, and directors of quality require a registered nurse or licensed independent social worker. Why not RTs?
Social media, with its millions of fans and followers, will be the avenue by which Richards will promote his alliance. Not only will the alliance reach respiratory therapists with its message, but it also intends to use social media to target individuals with lung disease and educate them about the importance of respiratory therapists. Richards also hopes the alliance will have a presence at the FOCUS conference. He believes that RTs should have a larger presence at high school career fairs, and to this end, he plans to send videos showing RTs at work to high school guidance counselors. Perhaps most ambitious, he would like the alliance to partner with a large respiratory device corporation and begin a campaign that shows RTs in action. Richards is convinced that if the profession gets more exposure, and the public has increased awareness, more people will opt for respiratory therapy as their first career choice.
But isn’t the AARC doing all of these things right now? Not enough, claims Richards. “I am a member of AARC, and I plan to continue being a member, but that does not mean that other ideas and other efforts cannot be pursued outside of the AARC.” He believes that the AARC could do a better job of paying attention to and addressing issues of front-line RTs and making a bigger effort to grow the profession.
Is Richards on the right track? Do we need another respiratory care group? Judge for yourself by visiting the NARCP Web site at www.narcp.org. You can learn all of their goals and check out the blogs written by RTs who support Richards’ vision of an expanded role for respiratory therapy.—Marian Benjamin