In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 9, 2017

Respiratory Therapy Games Bring Students, Instructors, Scouts Together

By In the Loop

Mayo Clinic’s Division of Respiratory Therapy has put a new spin on the hiring process for local senior respiratory therapy students by turning it into an annual multi-day skills competition full of different challenges and simulations intended to attract the best of the best.

When you think of skills competition, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn't respiratory therapists. And when you think of "fun" and "educational," you're probably not thinking job interview. But in March, a group of respiratory therapy students will experience an event that's a bit of all of those things — part college bowl, part audition, part Survivor, and all respiratory therapy.

The idea for the weekend-long event began a few years ago when James Baker was faced with filling an unusually high number of job openings. The supervisor and hiring manager for a growing Respiratory Therapy Division knew he was going to have to get creative to make connections with respiratory therapy students. He wanted to continue Mayo's tradition of, in his words, "attracting the best of the best" to Mayo's Rochester campus. To do that, he turned to his love of competitive sports for inspiration.

Inspired by the NFL's annual Scouting Combine, Baker and colleagues created a skills competition for respiratory therapy students. The idea was to bring respiratory therapy students together to test and strengthen their skills, learn a few new ones, make connections with fellow students (and those who'd love to employ them), and expose them to the wonders of Mayo Clinic.

"We came up with a series of different challenges and simulations for them to do — both as teams and individually," Baker says. The competition gives students a chance to demonstrate "how they interact and handle themselves in different working environments."

Those working environments include a "mock ICU room," where students are asked to respond to simulated breathing problems on a "high-fidelity, computerized mannequin" while "alarms and other distractions go off around them." In another, students spend two minutes in a different mock ICU setting. When they leave, they're asked to recite from memory everything they saw inside. Baker tells us this is an important skill "for respiratory therapists when assessing a patient." Then there's the final event, dubbed the "Apollo 13 challenge," where the students are asked to essentially "create something out of nothing."

Baker tells us each skills challenge is meant to be as much about education as it is competition. "The students spend a couple days with us, and we run them through all kinds of different simulation stations, and then keep score on how they do," he says. "At the end of the event, our staff has gotten to see a lot of potential job candidates," Baker says. The students, in turn, get "very detailed feedback on how they did in each event."

The event is a "win-win," whether or not the students are interested in applying at Mayo Clinic, he says. "For those who are applying, it's a chance to see what Mayo is like and what our respiratory therapists do here," Baker tells us. "And for those who aren't applying to work here, it's a great practice exercise," he says. "If we can give them some good feedback on how they performed, maybe that will help them out."

This year's event is set for March 10–12 at Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, just days after the 2017 NFL combine wraps up, in case any of the students are doing double duty that week.

For more information on this year's event, contact Baker at You can share your comments below and then use the handy social media tools to share this story with others.

Tags: Employee Stories, Medical Education Stories, Respiratory Care

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