"Any candidate worth his salt is working," says John Maher, director of strategic recruiting, RCI Together Recourse Communications, a national health care recruitment organization.
Respiratory care shares a high-demand arena with other hot fields such as radiology, pharmacy, and physical therapy (although the latter two are less in demand than in previous years).
But respiratory therapists do not share these professions' compensation levels.RT conducted a survey in spring 2003, emailed to 2,753 readers, 23% of whom responded with information about their compensation, benefits, hours, and other career-related topics.RT's survey findings mirror, or skew slightly higher than, national recruitment statistics: In late 2002, the nation's RTs earned between $39,000 and $46,000 annually, according to Maher; the largest percentage of RT's survey respondents reported incomes in the $40,000 to $49,000 range, with the second-highest percentage earning in the $50,000-$59,000 range.
Respiratory therapy will continue to be a high-demand market into the future, Maher
says, noting a "glaring need" for RTs, especially in Florida, Texas, California, and New York."The numbers of unfilled positions in these states are off the charts."
Needs are particularly high in rural facilities, which suffer a "double-edged sword," according to Maher
, because they lack a large population base from which to draw and they are not destination locations.In such areas, signing bonuses of $3,000-$5,000, and even as high as $7,500, are common recruitment strategies. (See this issue's facility profile for a report on one hospital's winning,and likely more effective,strategies for recruiting and maintaining RTs.) The Baptist Hospital salary adjustments were instigated after a market survey of the region, which included Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Tennessee, showed that the hospital was falling behind."You can feel when the market is moving without you," Lewis notes.
Specialized settings, including doctors' offices and asthma clinics, and areas within respiratory therapy, including home care, cardiopulmonary diagnostics, and, especially, sleep laboratories, are growing.
Last year, approximately half of United States hospitals lost money, and the rest showed a profit margin of 3% or smaller, Maher
says.In the face of these realities, can hospitals afford to pay RTs what the free-market equation of supply and demand would suggest that they are worth? Maher
says they can't afford not to."Certain things are not negotiable.A facility either can be competitive in the market place, or it can leave positions unfilled and risk losing accreditation," he
, too, says the ability to add respiratory protocols to their resumes makes practitioners more valuable candidates.