Please read below a reflection essay from SUNY Stonybrook student Kevin An. The NYSSRC sponsored him to join our NYS team in political advocacy at this year’s Hill Day.
Storming the Hill with the AARC: I would have never thought that so much would occur behind the scenes. Yet, the movements that occur to advance Respiratory Therapy as a profession was shown to me in Washington D.C. from April 8th to April 9th. As a senior in SUNY Stony Brook’s Respiratory Care Program, I had the opportunity to be a part of one of the many steps that were taken to advance the field. Never have I been so welcomed by professionals of the field from all over the country, gathered in one room, for the single goal of storming the Hill. The trip to Washington D.C. started a month before April 8th and April 9th. To even storm the Hill, one must plan meetings well in advance. The meetings would take weeks to solidify as politicians are always flooded with emails that ask for their voices to be heard. Regardless, storming the Hill would not be effective unless a block of time was cut out for the delegates of Respiratory Care, and that was exactly what all the delegates had to do. After all the meetings were solidified, April 8th was a day of planning. I don’t remember the total amount of delegates, but I was intimidated by the fact that everybody in the room was more distinguished than I was. After all, I was but only a student surrounded by professionals who have been in the field for decades. However, everybody in that room was extremely friendly towards me. They treated me with the respect that I would only assume one would get after a year or two in the profession. After further inquiry, my respect only grew for the delegates because all of them were volunteering their time to advance the career of Respiratory Therapists. Not one person was paid to advocate for the profession. After extensive prepping and planning, it was finally time to storm the Hill. And storm the Hill we did. For the whole day, I was walking from office to office in a total of five different buildings with NYSSRC Representatives Christine Slocum, Sheri Tooley, and Stephen Smith. Unfortunately, we did not get to meet any of the congressman or congresswoman, but we did meet people who represented them. Speech and communication are an art. For all the meetings I attended, Christine, Sheri, and Stephen showed succinctness, clarity, and connection with all the representatives. Eloquent speech was needed because every office we went to only allotted us 15-30 minutes of their time. However, 15-30 minutes was all that was needed to advocate for advanced patient care. Surprisingly, many representatives could relate to COPD, asthma, and even cystic fibrosis because they had loved ones with those diseases. When you can convince the representatives, they will do their best to convince their congressman/congresswomen. Overall, what I learned from this experience was that advancing our profession as Respiratory Therapists relies on two aspects. It relies on all the Respiratory Therapists to show competence and confidence in the clinical setting, and it relies on the few Respiratory Therapists who advocate on their behalf behind the scenes to move the profession forward. I would like to take the time to thank the AARC for picking my essay and the NYSSRC for sponsoring me on the wonderful opportunity to participate in the PACT meeting for Washington D.C. This was an experience I could only hope is open to more students from each state in the future to incite passion for advancing the career of Respiratory Therapy.
Sincerely, Kevin An
SUNY Stony Brook Respiratory Care Program