Across Mass General Brigham, teams and individuals continuously work together to find new ways to share information, resources and best practices. So in 2021 when the Respiratory Therapy team at Salem Hospital needed extra staffing and training support, staff from Mass General helped to fill in the gaps – and eventually continued to develop this partnership and create systemwide learning opportunities through the Mass General Brigham Respiratory Therapy Educational Program.

Headshot of Carolyn La Vita, MHA, RRT
Carolyn La Vita, MHA, RRT

“Our team at MGH had been providing education to staff at Salem Hospital on a very general basis before 2021,” says Carolyn La Vita, MHA, RRT, director of MGH Respiratory Care Services. “After 2021, we began specialized training in their special care nursery for newborn respiratory failure, but it was more sporadic.”

In an effort to engage staff in more consistent learning, La Vita says MGH’s Respiratory Team invited staff from Salem Hospital to their monthly continuing education lectures to help them learn more about topics that interested them. Soon, teams from other Mass General Brigham hospitals expressed interest in these opportunities.

“One month, the topic of our session was ventilator waveforms, and staff from other institutions heard about it through the grapevine,” La Vita says. “Our partnership with Salem was so strong, I thought it would be great to open these sessions up to colleagues across the system every month.”

The sessions were traditionally hosted and led by MGH respiratory therapists, but as staff from more and more hospitals began to attend, La Vita opened the opportunity to others.

“It’s so important for all of us to learn from each other,” she says. “We encourage anyone and everyone – regardless of their seniority or specialty – to share their knowledge and expertise. It’s great that we can have such a widespread sharing of information on a regular basis.”

La Vita says the most significant benefits of this program are the way it helps staff understand topics they might be interested in but don’t have hands-on experience with, as well as the way it establishes consistency across the system.

“It gives us the opportunity to not only expose our staff to new topics, but also to establish best practices and ensure we’re following the best evidence throughout Mass General Brigham,” La Vita says. “It really enforces the notion that no matter which hospital patients go to within our system, their care will be the same. Our teams base that care on ever-evolving evidence, rather than what has always been done in the past.”

This collaboration across Mass General is also useful in times of crisis when teams encounter uncharted territory, such as the surge of pediatric respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) patients in the fall and winter of 2022. La Vita says during these times, it is helpful to bounce ideas and knowledge off of each other in order to produce the best outcomes for patients.

“Because we’ve built such great relationships, our staff are much more likely to call or email a colleague when they have a question,” La Vita says. “The program has opened up a completely new avenue for conversation and strengthened our collegial relationships.”

Looking ahead, La Vita hopes this program will continue to encourage staff development – specifically in public speaking and preparing lectures.

“It can be nerve-wracking to stand in front of your colleagues and give a presentation,” she says. “When staff are interested in giving a lecture, we make sure they have the tools to do so successfully – we help them put slides together and talk through the information they plan to share. Helping people try new things and explore other avenues of education is very exciting.”