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Emergency Backup Career Plans

Posted Aug 11 2008 9:07pm

Back when I was in RT school, I was not confident about my success as an RT. I worried that the stress of dealing with the seriously ill coupled with the odd hours and the mass of knowledge required would cause me to be an abject failure as a respiratory therapist.

Because of my fear of failure I drew up emergency backup career plans. I had not done well in school prior to going to RT school. I am not the kind of person who can easily spend a lot of time studying because I tend to be easily distracted. I am smart, but not necessarily motivated, and that’s a bad combination because being smart doesn’t matter if you’re lazy.

So anyway, in the midst of RT school I drew up an emergency backup career plan. At the time I was working as a courier for a local company that specialized in business-to-business deliveries across the state. I’d pick up short evening shifts and longer weekend runs, spending 12 to 14 hours on the road going back and forth from company to company. In a single day I could go all the way from the Tip Of Civilization in the northern realms of the state down to the more developed areas in the southern parts of the state. The job was a lot of fun. It was simple; bring things from point A to point B and get them there on time. I rather enjoyed it.

And so it was that I decided that if I couldn’t be a respiratory therapist…if for some reason the world of breathing did not pan out for me…I would become…

…a truck driver.

It’s a demanding job, but it’s an important one: after all, everything gets where it is in the back of a truck, from medical equipment to produce. It’s not easy. It’s stressful and commands long hours. But dealing with stress, long hours, and jerks are all skills that those of us in medicine have anyway.

For a long time I thought I was alone in this. But the other day, another therapist originally from my area and I were working in the BICU* together and got to talking about what other jobs would be out there.

“You know, it sounds crazy, but I always thought I could be a trucker if all else failed.”

“That’s not crazy. I actually thought the same thing. You go to school for three weeks, learn the ropes, and then go over the road. The pay’s the same as or better than what we’re making here.”

“That’s true.”

“I drove for a while when I was running homecare. They didn’t need any clinical RTs so they got me a class B license and sent me on the road with supplies.”

“Did you like it?”

“Loved it. Once the kids are a little older I might go back to it, get my class A and a hazmat and hit the road.”

….So, dear readers. What were your alternative career plans? I don’t know a lot of RTs who always wanted to be an RT; most people sort of fall into it. What were your backup plans? What else would you do if being an RT suddenly was no longer fulfilling?


*The BICU is the Burnout ICU. It contains our most hopeless and awful patients. While it can be interesting sometimes, right now it’s full of patients that make you want to quit.

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