Outgoing President Reflects

As I reflect upon my tenure as president of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC), it’s difficult not to think about how my career as a respiratory therapist has influenced where I am today. I began my career with a simple goal to provide the best care possible to patients and to make a difference in their lives and their outcomes. I was eager to learn and do the best job I could. I always had a desire to excel and impress, I thought that being an excellent clinician would be my measure of success. But as I grew professionally, it became clear that the true measure of success was to love what you do, which ultimately led me to specialize in neonatal/pediatric practice.

In 2004 the NBRC found themselves in need of a board member with neonatal/pediatric experience, and I was honored to fit that criterion and serve in that capacity. I was so impressed with the organization and its operations that I secretly told myself I would want to work for the NBRC if I didn’t already have a job I loved. During my tenure on the Board, I served on the Therapist Multiple-Choice and Neonatal/Pediatric Specialty Examination committees and several standing committees before taking on the president’s role in 2018. I asked many questions about what it meant to be president from past presidents, and they all offered lots of advice and wisdom. In the end, I learned each president brings a unique and individual perspective to the role because we all have different backgrounds. I am a clinician with a small educator component, so my focus aligns most closely with the challenges of frontline and direct caregivers. I care about moving the profession forward and gaining awareness and recognition for respiratory therapists, so they receive much-deserved respect as a vital member of the health care team.

While the primary focus and mission of the NBRC is to credential respiratory care practitioners, signifying that they are clinical experts in matters involving respiratory care, as president, I have always felt a responsibility to be a good role model for the profession. In my personal life, when I tell someone where I work, the first question I am often asked: “Are you a nurse?” and I respectfully respond, “No, I am a respiratory therapist.” I then must explain in detail what a respiratory therapist does. As president of the NBRC attending physician and medical conferences, I never once had to answer that question, and it was so refreshing. I was surrounded by physicians, medical liaisons, pharmacists, nurses, mid-level providers, and other medical and non-medical personnel that not only knew what a respiratory therapist was but respected what a respiratory therapist did.

I met some amazing leaders along my journey, leaders in research, clinical care, innovation, medical sales, and medical education. They came from all aspects of health care and from all over the world, sometimes I felt like a grain of sand on a massive beach, but everyone I encountered and everyone I worked with was incredible. I have grown professionally because of my service to the NBRC. I have learned so much about teamwork, leadership, friendship, and the value of collaboration that I will treasure and use to improve my own performance.

In many ways, the NBRC president’s role is somewhat like that of a virtual manager. You are responsible for decisions that are occurring outside your physical space and for people that you must often communicate with by phone or email. In some ways, I could say that being president of the NBRC has given me some insight into managing people virtually during this year of the pandemic. COVID has taught us all a lot about improvising. It has dramatically impacted my final year as president in ways I could have never imagined. We have all had to deal with new stresses, new ways to work, live, and educate.

We have had to mourn unimaginable losses, yet we keep going even at the risk of our own personal health. Early in the pandemic, I felt compelled to deliver a message to all RT’s thanking them for what they were doing as they were battling so hard to save lives. This pandemic has touched us in ways that are so personal and so strong. I am incredibly proud of the profession and the role RT’s have played that has directly impacted patients’ outcomes with COVID-19. I hope that someday the world will see how vital respiratory therapists were during the pandemic of 2020.

As the first and possibly the only three-term president, I still feel like there is more to learn; Lori Tinkler, MBA, CEO of the NBRC, was an amazing mentor. She provided me with the guidance I needed at every turn, and I cannot thank her enough. The staff at the NBRC is incredible. The work they do is infallible. I wish that every practitioner could understand the rigor and science behind the examination process and the detail by which each examination is developed. It should also be noted that while the country was shut down and respiratory therapists were in great demand, the NBRC went to great lengths to implement remote proctoring to ensure that candidates could be tested during the pandemic.

As president of the NBRC, you get the opportunity to travel across the country, meet a lot of high-profile professionals, attend many professional meetings, and grow in intangible ways that are difficult to describe. I’m not really about the fanfare or even the recognition that undoubtedly goes with any title at this level.

As I end my tenure, I hope that I served the profession with dignity and pride. It is difficult to put into words what being president of the organization that awarded me credentials and has allowed me to do what I love for nearly forty years has meant to me. Being a respiratory therapist is more than a job, more than a career; it’s a passion for me. Having had the honor to lead that organization has been such an important part of my life and career. It is something I will always treasure.

With much respect,

Katherine L. Fedor, MBA, RRT, RRT-NPS, CPFT, FAARC
NBRC President