Respiratory Care Practitioner,
Parkland Health and Hospital System
El Centro Respiratory Care Program
“The thing I enjoy the most about being a respiratory therapist is being able to collaborate with physicians and nurses in the assessment and treatment of patients with various cardiopulmonary diseases or disorders. Respiratory therapists can play a vital role on the health care team for patients who are also affected by other conditions or traumatic events. I enjoy interacting and engaging with my patients and their family members and encourage open dialogue and questions from them concerning the patient's condition.
“There are actually a lot of common misconceptions about this career, but the overarching theme relates to the role respiratory therapists play on the health care team. Most people outside of health care (and often inside health care) don't really understand what exactly a respiratory therapist does. They often don’t really understand or appreciate how much knowledge and skill it takes to do the job we do and do it successfully.
“Respiratory therapists are not just technicians trained to deliver treatments and therapies with different types of equipment. We have to truly comprehend a wide range of topics and how they relate to a patient’s condition. That includes pharmacology (the study of drug actions), pathophysiology (the study of diseased organs), anatomy and physiology, applied physics, hemodynamics (the dynamics of blood flow), cardiac monitoring and mechanical ventilation. Employers are looking for employees who are well rounded and knowledgeable in all of these areas. They must be able to apply that knowledge and use critical thinking skills to make decisions that are in the best interest of the patient. At times, those decisions need to be made on the spot with little or no advance warning.
“There a numerous job boards and sites where you can see open positions posted, but the best source for finding jobs in our field is networking during the program itself. We tell students that every day in the program is a job interview and how they behave in clinic or at the clinical sites can have a huge impact on their ability to get a job after graduation. The saying 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ is very true — more often than not the first impression employers get of potential employees is while they are students in their facilities.
“To be able to succeed in this career, you must be hardworking and be willing to always learn, because you will never be at a point where you know it all. You must be able to take all that you've learned in the program and apply it in a fast-paced and dynamic environment where you may be required to make critical decisions at a moment's notice. You must be willing to be an advocate for your patient and always keep your patient's best interests as your number one priority.”
A graduate of El Centro's Respiratory Care Program, Shawn Terry began teaching for the program as an adjunct faculty instructor in 2015 and joined the program as a full-time instructor in 2016. He has worked as a respiratory care practitioner in adult general and ICU care for the Parkland Health and Hospital system since 2013. See his