Please describe your position and role as a research Respiratory Therapist working with a physician?
The main focus of my work is with one of the attending physicians and his lung physiology studies.
My responsibilities include design, feasibility, and execution of studies that utilize multiple technologies to better comprehend changes in the critically ill. I also screen, obtain consent for studies, and train other physician and non-physician researchers. As a result, I have joined multiple of the various committees in the Medical/Surgical Intensive Care Unit (MSICU). One aspect that I really enjoy about this job is working with members of the interdisciplinary team in a different aspect other than the clinical bedside, which allows me to also collaborate with other professions outside of the normal critical care team. Recently I have been working with a web designer to develop a research lab website, which will improve how we disseminate relevant information to our teams, and it will highlight our accomplishments!
Which technologies do you work with aside from mechanical ventilators?
To help us enhance our understanding of how mechanical ventilation interacts with the critically ill, we have been utilizing esophageal balloon manometry, Electrical Impedance Tomography (EIT), Neurally Adjusted Ventilatory Assist (NAVA), ultrasound, and the use of magnets to stimulate the phrenic nerve. These are great physiological technologies that can be used to collect data. Part of my job is to assure quality data acquisition and reproducing those techniques for data analysis.
Do you have any previous experience in research?
I have had research experience prior to entering Respiratory Therapy. I worked at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and at Ryerson University for two years. I gained many skills during my time working as a researcher, which have merged in to some of my work at Toronto General Hospital. I also collaborated with a fellow RT to develop a research project, which currently is underway.
What have you gained from this experience, and what are some obstacles or limitations you’ve encountered as a research RRT?
I have definitely gained experience in hospital policy and practice development. Initially, it was a little overwhelming with the development of my new role and research protocols while ensuring I was conversant on the new physiological adjuncts for the research projects in order to extend my knowledge to my fellow RTs. I have steadily come into my own, and have recently written and submitted an abstract with a fellow RT to the Critical Care Canada Forum. Currently, I am completing the development of my own research protocol. It is really rewarding helping to develop things that can change practice in the critical care environment. I am also honing my skills in performing diaphragm ultrasound, and soon will share my knowledge and skills with other RTs.
What advice would you give for RTs who are interested in participating in research but are not sure where to begin?
Investigate the gaps in practice and determine how you can constructively improve. This will help you formulate a research idea and create a question. This is the first, essential step. Look into specific areas of your practice that you enjoy and think of ways or ideas that can boost and advance standard of care. Collaborate with your interdisciplinary team. Everyone will regard your question with a different lens and will provide a viewpoint you may not yet have pondered. Finally, approach your leadership team to determine the resources they and your workplace can provide to support you. I believe it is pivotal to find a mentor to help guide and advise. If you cannot think of a mentor, look to the staff physician you are working with, and start networking!