This week’s spotlight features Farzana Chowdhury, a dual respiratory therapist and non-clinical speech-language pathologist. This Therapy Blogging 101 alumnus channeled her passion for writing and blogging, and landed a role as the respiratory managing editor at Continued.com.
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What is your full name and title at your current job?
Farzana Chowdhury MS, CCC-SLP, BS, RRT-NPS
Managing Editor for Respiratory Care, Continued.com
Where are you located?
Where did you go to SLP school, and what year did you graduate?
Midwestern State University for Bachelors in Respiratory Therapy, Graduated 2007
Texas Woman’s University for Master’s in Speech Language Pathology, Graduated 2012
What did you do when you first finished school, and for how long?
I worked as a student respiratory therapist at the county hospital, level 1 trauma center in Dallas, TX. Once I graduated, I went into working night shifts in the trauma/surgical and medical ICUs.
After working for several years as an RT, I wanted to transition to higher level of learning and earn my master’s degree. Respiratory therapy at that time did not offer a Masters (but they do now!).
I remember working with SLPs in the ICU, sharing ventilated tracheostomy population. I wanted to build on critical care skills I already had vs. starting over. I chose speech therapy as I could apply my critical care skills and layer on new skills, given the strong foundation on the anatomy and physiology of the airway & swallowing disorders both professions shared.
In what setting(s) did you work, and what types of patients did you treat?
After graduate school, I completed my certificate of clinical competence (CCCs), fellowship at a skilled nursing facility (getting a fellowship at an acute care hospital was a rare find).
Upon graduation, I worked as an SLP in an academic teaching hospital, doing acute care in neuro, surgical, & medical ICUs. Also, as a graduate SLP and working as a respiratory therapist, I had training and strong experience in the neonatal ICU, level 4.
I used both my respiratory & speech therapy critical care skills to focus on the most fragile population in the hospital setting, the neonatal ICU babies—specifically, NICU babies with tracheostomies and aerodigestive disorders. For continuity of care, I worked in the neonatal ICU, pediatric ICU, craniofacial & aerodigestive outpatient clinics.
For several years, I worked with physicians, advanced practitioners, speech pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and respiratory therapists, advocating for our services and passing guidelines and protocols for both adult and pediatric tracheostomy patients in acute care.
I was a member of the hospital tracheostomy teams & quality improvement committees for hospital-wide program development.
With the onset of the 2020 pandemic, therapy hours were non-existent. Thankfully, our hospital was needing RTss to help with managing COVID-19 patients. I stepped in and worked as both RT and SLP. It was definitely not easy, as I have not exclusively practiced as an RT once I graduated from SLP school. However, I always maintained my licenses and continuing education to keep my skills up to date and myself marketable.
What did you enjoy about your early roles?
I loved seeing the babies develop from the neonatal ICU to a year later in the outpatient clinics. I loved working side-by-side with the parents, empowering them to feel comfortable understanding their babies’ medical needs and their own ability to trust themselves when it came to the children’s communication (verbal/non-verbal) and swallowing/feeding skills.
The collaboration with physicians, RNs, dieticians, PTs, OTs, RTs, and caregivers were always enlightening, and I was constantly learning and applying new skills. I loved providing education and mentoring to graduate clinicians in areas of clinical collaboration and providing health care service with client/patient-centered approach.
The majority of my experience is exclusively the teaching/academic, acute care hospital setting. Changing the old practices and department culture to initiate evidenced-based practice could be tough.
Physicians and newer therapists would often be enthusiastic and supportive of changes designed to improve outcomes. Unfortunately, initiatives would often be put on hold or ignored by rehab leadership due to multitude of reasons. These included:
- Hospital bureaucracy
- Department culture
- Resistance to change
- Poor team collaboration/communication
- Demanding productivity standards
- Lack of cross training
- An overall lack of time for quality of care and program development.
I often found myself often working on quality improvement initiatives after work hours, post patient care.
When and why did you realize you wanted to do something non-clinical ?
I was not necessarily looking for a change out of clinical practice, but I did have a desire to explore non-clinical niches. I realized that I was slowly burning out; I felt stressed and my work-life balance was affected.
I researched areas where I can add value as a team member. The more research I did, the more I realized how much experience I had for so many hospital non-clinical job postings. However, almost always the hiring hospitals or companies only wanted RNs.
That idea alone was baffling to me! As therapists, we have superb communication skills, especially considering how much we work with various people: physicians, medical team members, patients, and caregivers.
We also excel in sales when advocating for our services, and we are immensely organized as we run between acute care to outpatient or rehab areas while maintaining productivity. We problem-solve. We complete administration work, and meet quarterly goals.
What are you doing these days?
I am currently the Managing Editor for Respiratory Therapy with Continued. Also, I work at the hospital as a PRN speech-language pathologist to keep my critical care skills fresh.
Are you still treating patients, or are you solely non-clinical?
Yes, I chose to continue working PRN to keep my critical skills strong and maintain interdisciplinary collaboration with multidisciplinary team members. In turn, this helps me in the Respiratory Managing Editor role, identifying barriers and creating educational content needs.
About what percentage of your time is spent clinically vs. non-clinically?
80% non-clinical, 20% clinical
How long have you been in your current as Respiratory Managing Editor?
I started in August 2020, so it’s been about a year.
How did you find your job?
At this stage in my career I did some self-reflection. I was actively seeking to use both my RT and SLP degrees while maintaining my current knowledge base. I identified what challenged me, and I noted what I loved about my job: networking, collaborating, education, and research. I came across a FB page and there was a tag to The Non-Clinical PT.
Feeling curious, I researched medical copy writing, and I wound up signing up for Meredith’s Therapy Blogging 101 course. Meredith runs alumni Facebook groups for all of her courses, and I introduced myself as a dual RT/SLP in the Therapy Blogging 101 alumni group. Not long after this, Meredith passed along a job opportunity for my Respiratory Therapy Managing Editor at Continued.
I decided to go with my gut feeling, so I applied for the position!
Did you do anything special to your resume and cover letter to land the Respiratory Managing Editor job?
Yes. Meredith had excellent examples on her blog. I took the time to translate what I did every day clinically. For example, I highlighted problem solving, meeting goals/deadlines, education across the field, networking, communication etc.—and I translated those skills into plain “non-clinical” language.
I also took the time to create a cover letter that, again, spoke “non-clinically” without the hospital jargon, while at the same time highlighting my areas of strength and motivation.
What was the interview like for the role?
The interview process was intense, and there were multiple interviews. Interviews entailed discussion with the recruiter, senior editors, and editor in chief.
However, I felt very comfortable and confident I was ready for an editorial role given my skills and background in the therapy world.
Did you get any special certifications or training along the way to help you get into your current role?
Understanding the SEO/marketing and educational technology pieces helped me acclimate to this role easily. The editorial world is very different from the clinical realm of patient care. I am still learning and asking lots of questions!
How have people reacted to you leaving patient care?
Many colleagues and managers were surprised, given my love for hands-on patient care. Overall, people have been supportive and understanding, as they saw that this was an opportunity for a leadership position creating educational initiatives and driving change in our therapy professions.
I still get to do clinical care as a PRN SLP, so I have the best of both worlds!
What’s a typical day or week in the life like for you?
A typical day is filled with editorial tasks, meeting with presenters and team members, and content creation and review. Here are some of the things I do…
- Develop and maintain an extensive professional network of leading experts to contribute content and provide expertise for continuing education opportunities for respiratory therapy professionals
- Create and manage the development of all online courses, programs, and content in our course library
- Proofread editorial materials and perform copyright reviews
- Plan and execute virtual conferences and course series
- Execute the annual course schedule and programming for respiratory therapy professionals seeking continuing education units (CEUs)
- Assist with training presenters in the online platform
- Moderate webinars
- Systematically evaluate and track quality of courses and programs, and implement continuous quality improvements to ensure high quality of editorial content
What are some of the challenges of your role? What are the rewards?
Challenges: Working from home, self-discipline in meeting productivity goals. Knowing when to “turn it off.”
Rewards: Using my clinical skills and love of education in a unique platform to reach a GREATER audience level. I’m motivated by my dedication to providing simple learning experiences to enhance the careers of clinical professionals.
As a clinician myself, when it comes to learning needs, turning to online platforms that provide up-to-date valuable content is most ideal. Our healthcare industry is continuously evolving, and making educational content and programs available online is an absolute necessity. This, in turn, validates why we have to regularly expand our knowledge and skillsets for best practice as frontline workers.
How do you think working as a clinician prepared you for this role? Which skills transferred?
Several things have prepared me for this role while working in both professions.
Being a lifelong learner and prioritizing collaboration with various team members in all areas of care have been helpful. I also think that seeking out quality improvement initiatives and program development while I was still a clinician helped me land this job.
Hearing “no” or “that’s just how we’ve always done it” fueled my motivation to find creative solutions to hard problems.
Roughly speaking, how are the hours and pay compared to patient care?
Very comparable. There’s no weekend work, though! We hit the ground running every day. Some days, I finish early and some days are late, so it’s no different than working in the hospital setting in that way.
What type of person do you think would do well in your role?
This role is highly visible both internally and externally for the respiratory therapy profession.
The Managing Editor position calls for a person who can easily network, collaborate, and work both independently and collaboratively with multiple team members.
Open-ended communication, creativity, and flexibility are equally important, given that we work remotely with our operational team members and various departments (marketing, educational technology, product, and development teams). This role is a good fit for someone who is also organized, enjoys reading and writing, and takes initiative.
Do you work remotely or on-site?
Remotely. We have weekly zoom calls with team members, and meetings across the U.S. with respiratory therapists and healthcare providers.
Does your organization hire PT, OT, or SLP professionals into non-clinical roles? If so, what type of roles?
Yes! We are a continuing education company with multiple therapy verticals. SLPs/OTs/PTs/RTs hold roles in administration, operations, sales/marketing, etc.
Did you read any books, take any courses, or do anything special overall to get you where you are today?
- Therapy Blogging 101 from The Non-Clinical PT
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg: “We lower our own expectations of what we can achieve”
- The Power of Now by Eckert Tolle: “Give up defining yourself”
In the past, I figured that since I have a bachelor’s degree in respiratory therapy and a master’s in speech therapy, it must mean I can only do respiratory or speech clinical work.
I created a box for myself. I feared jumping back into respiratory therapy during the pandemic, but I also trusted myself, that my skills have always been with me.
We are always adapting to a dynamic environment, and it’s refreshing to lean in and embrace the change.
What is a typical career path for someone in your role?
I think there are multiple avenues for career paths in this role. As we wear many “hats” and multitask, our careers can take off toward editorial initiatives, copywriting, education, sales, or even your own therapy blog or website!
What is next for you? What do you want to do with your career long-term?
I am still learning all things editorial, and I’m appreciating the challenge as I evolve. I enjoy this niche where I get to work with people nationally and help bridge continuing education needs for our profession. It’s a career I hope to fulfill for a long time coming!
What would you recommend to someone who is considering going into a role like yours? Do you have any special words of wisdom for the readers?
Learning is a lifelong process. Be open to learning from people who are younger/older or different from you.
Seek opportunities to problem-solve and educate yourself. Over the years, I’ve realized that as a therapist, 80-90% of what we do involves education. We educate our peers, our patients, and caregivers.
The more we are proactive with education, the more we increase understanding of the “why,” inevitably changing people’s perceptions for the greater good.
What would you like to change most in your profession, and why? How would you propose doing so?
Our profession will benefit from initiations in driving process changes and creating leadership roles. This markets rehab professionals as valuable key players in our organizations, and it opens doors for opportunities outside of “we have always done it this way.”
If you could give yourself one piece of career advice you wish you had during school, what would it be?
Invest in key skills-based courses: graphic design, technology, business entrepreneurship, writing, reading classes!
If you could teach anything to today’s graduate students in your profession, what would it be?
Be the puzzle piece that completes the puzzle or builds onto the next piece, leading to the “bigger picture.” So much of what we do as therapists consists of building blocks; we rarely work in silos.
Always be open to change and new learning approaches! There is never just “one” way to do something.
Become a valued member of a team, so that replacing you would be difficult.
Read and write as much as you can!
Do you have any special advice for others who want to follow in your footsteps?
- Take initiative
- Find opportunities to learn and relearn from multiple sources
- Continue to add tools to your toolbox
- Network for endless possibilities
- Kindness never fails you!
- Be open to innovation and changing practices for the greater good