One night at work, Destinee Garrett decided to do a little research into her future.
During her shift as a hospital nursing assistant, Garrett asked nine co-workers about their jobs. She wanted to learn who was the most satisfied with their work and if it showed. After listening to everything, Garrett knew what she wanted to do.
“That night I decided to go with respiratory therapy,” she said.
Garrett eventually enrolled in American Career College-Orange County’s respiratory therapy program, all the while working as a nurse assistant at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Once in school, Garrett soon rose to the top of her class and gained confidence in her decision.
“I knew I made the right choice when I started clinical rotations,” Garrett said. “The hospital setting was so familiar and it really felt like this was what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Now Garrett is one of nine residents selected to be part of the CHLA Respiratory Care Residency program, and receiving extended neonatal and pediatric clinical training at one of the largest hospitals in California.
“The average day as an RCP (respiratory care practitioner) is very busy but also fun," she said. "Being so new, I’m always learning something every day. My new respiratory family is so welcoming and helpful.”
At CHLA, RCP residents spend 75 percent of the program receiving one-to-one precepted pediatric and neonatal training with seasoned mentors. The remaining time is spent in the classroom or skills lab, honing the tools necessary to make the transition from new graduate RCP to specialty neonatal and pediatric RCP.
RCP residents also gain experience on individualized rotations — or "looping," in hospital speak — in different areas where RCP's are used, including Emergency Transport, Pulmonary Function, Sleep Lab or CHLA's cutting-edge 58-bed Newborn and Infant Critical Care Unit.
"Just knowing that I’m helping and doing my best is what motivates me at CHLA," Garrett said. "I love seeing the kids smile and I absolutely love snuggling with the babies. I mean who gets to cuddle with babies for work?”
Why did you choose the RT program?
I chose respiratory because I love working with people and I wanted to advance my career. I knew I wanted to stay in the medical field and respiratory just stood out, so I went with it. It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Do you feel the RT program prepared you for what you’re dealing with at CHLA?
ACC has done an amazing job at preparing me for my career at Children’s Hospital. The teachers were amazing and really helped me every step of the way.
What’s the best thing about being an RT? What’s the hardest part?
The best thing about being an RCP is being able to help others and having people look to you in emergency situations because you’re the first responder and you’re on the front line. The hardest thing for me is seeing kids in distress or being sick.
Did you ever feel like quitting the program while at ACC? If so, what kept you going?
There were times when I felt like quitting because of personal issues, but I had family and friends rooting for me. I knew it would pay off in the end (and it has big time) and I’m so proud of myself.
What advice do you have for new or potential healthcare students?
My advice would be to keep pushing and stay positive because it’ll be over soon and you can look back and say “I did it.”
Do you have any long-term career goals either at CHLA or elsewhere?
I’m so proud to be a part of CHLA and I plan on being here to soak up all the knowledge and experience I can. Eventually, I’d like to start travel therapy so that I can see the world and help people at the same time.
Is there anything you want to add?
The American Career College respiratory therapy program has some of the best teachers and a great director and they really help you every step of the way. I couldn’t have done it without them. Big thanks to ACC!