Professionalism, Redefined?

Elisabeth M. Frails, RCVT/RCIS, Cardiovascular Educator, University Hospital, Augusta, Georgia
Elisabeth M. Frails, RCVT/RCIS, Cardiovascular Educator, University Hospital, Augusta, Georgia
Those of us who have been in the cath lab setting for the past 15 years or more have witnessed dramatic changes, the majority of which are for the better, but some of which we may not be too sure. However, there are certainly many positive developments which have resulted in an improved work environment, such as streamlined operations, identification and definition of specific accountabilities and responsibilities, and a redefining of the team concept. Positive changes have also occurred in imaging technology, as well as with device improvements, such as drug-eluting stents and plaque ablation technology. However, one change that may not easily come to mind, but is significant, is the professional climate among cath lab peers. The era of comradery, the feeling of security and helpfulness, that is so important for old-timers as well as newcomers, as they try to deal with the cath lab demands, has been lost. As we face increased personnel turnover, the encouragement and secure feeling of family is harder to achieve and maintain, thus adding more stress to and already demanding profession. Many labs leave the credentials at the door, whether it is RN, RCIS, RT, etc. The majority of technologists are cross-trained to scrub, circulate and run control. This certainly creates equal footing. However, we often overlook a more fundamental issue that can cause friction the impact of generational differences. Frequently described by consultants who specialize in management concepts, it has not been related to those of us who work side-by-side with individuals of varying generations. Generational differences can surface as accountability and responsibility issues, both individually or within the profession as a whole. When combined with moral and ethical concepts that drive a chosen work ethic, these differences manifest in many forms and can impact and result in some of the changes that we see in the professional climate. The most well-known generation in the work force, the Baby Boomers, has dominated the professional climate thus far. Baby Boomers are generally characterized as hard workers, loyal to their company, and not necessarily motivated by money. The Baby Boomer generation is now approaching retirement and new employees from a more recent generation have been entering the work force. These new employees, looking for a career change or just starting a career, frequently display a different philosophy in their approach to their work life. Generation X’ers (a term most people are familiar with), tend to want a very structured and organized acclimation and preceptor period, and may not feel comfortable with on-the-job-training as their primary path to knowledge. X’ers also tend to have firmer limits on the time they spend at work and focus equally, if not more, on personal and family issues than the Baby Boomers. The Gen X trend in thinking may not mesh well with the commitment and rigorous work ethic that is required for our profession, with its long hours and call. As a result, this generation may be more inclined to leave our field and find jobs which can accommodate a less demanding lifestyle, tenets of which can include, but are not limited to, increased salary requirements and less stressful work environment. Meanwhile, older, seasoned technologists support the department through the rollercoaster ride of professional climate change, which often leads to feelings of resentment and discontent. The phenomena of generational differences needs to be examined in order to fully understand its role in the change of professional climate over the past decade. Both individual and collective benefit can be reaped from deeper understanding of this concept. As healthcare professionals, we are morally and ethically inclined to respect each others as peers. In order to respect the larger changes which may affect our individual work life, we must fully understand the driving forces behind them. As an instructor of cardiovascular technology, I talk about this topic not to force students to conform to a new philosophy or to force the issue on those who are not familiar with it, but to help them learn about the required respect and professionalism of our field. I also want to help students, as best I can, to adapt and acclimate these concepts in their new work environment. I emphasize to them what is expected in this profession accountability, respect and the ability to follow rules. These things are tested early in the students’ education experience, before any exposure to the clinical setting occurs. Things such as wearing a uniform and punctuality are key indicators that may not seem so important on the surface; however, how a student reacts to these things will indicate very quickly how well he or she can follow rules and be accountable. Once a student is exposed to the clinical setting, situations that will require maintaining a professional attitude present themselves almost immediately. Again, how the student reacts will generally indicate their survival in this demanding profession. The good news is that by approaching this topic early on in their education, those students who cannot acclimate will quickly come to that realization and can be encouraged to seek an alternate career path. Those who show a genuine interest are welcomed and add significantly to the credibility of our profession. Author Elisabeth Frails can be reached at efrails@uh.org