Respiratory therapy career takes accelerated route for SJVC Temecula’s Program Director
It took Madison Dodds just seven years to go from Respiratory Therapy (RT) program student to Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT) in a hospital environment to RT program instructor at San Joaquin Valley College’s Temecula campus to the Respiratory Therapy Program Director. The trajectory of her career took her from sitting in a classroom to directing the Respiratory Therapy program in record time.
After completing her RT program on SJVC’s Rancho Cucamonga (now Ontario) campus in 2012, Madison passed the exam for her Registered Respiratory Therapy license on the first try. She went to work for a major hospital in Whittier where she put into practice all that she had learned in class and clinical rotations.
“I like to call it (hospital) my home, because that experience kind of raised me as an RT,” says Madison. She worked 12-hour shifts that gave her tremendous proficiency in the field, but after five years, she felt the need to make a change.
She and her husband Ryan were facing some challenges in starting their family, and Madison needed to have more flexibility in her work schedule to pursue medical intervention. In addition to the advantage of a shorter work schedule, Madison held a growing interest in steering young minds in their own respiratory therapy career paths.
“I always wanted to get into teaching; it was always my plan,” says Madison. “At about that time an instructor position presented itself and I was looking for a different schedule and upward career move.” It took just a couple of weeks for that impulse to go from job application to interview to position offer. Her career fast-track was gaining momentum.
There was a little bit of nostalgia at being back on a campus. “It brought me back to my school days, seeing students in their gray uniforms – something I once wore. I used to sit where they sat.”
It was a comfortable transition from being a practicing respiratory therapist to RT program educator. “The best part of teaching the program is watching the students start out at one specific point and end at another point; watching their growth,” says Madison.
Her teaching style is very interactive and hands-on with students. “I relate to them as much as I can the real-life hospital setting and the professionalism of their careers. That I was once one of them is very helpful.”
For two and a half years, Madison enjoyed influencing her students toward academic and career success. She enjoyed sharing her passion for their chosen field of study. But when the Respiratory Therapy Program Director position became vacant, Madison was ready to show she had more to offer.
“I felt that it was a good time for me to step up my career. I was the one who knew the students and how the program ran the best. And I felt I would be a good fit for the position.”
The recruitment process included interviewing candidates from outside the college system and that process took about three weeks. At its conclusion, Madison was offered the position and assumed her new role in April.
Madison was elated, if a little overwhelmed, as she continues to perform both program director and instructor responsibilities until her instructor position is filled.
Over the years, Madison had also earned her Bachelor’s degree in Respiratory Therapy and planned to put all her knowledge and experience into positive play.
“I look forward to shaping students’ lives while they are here in the RT program,” says Madison. She wants SJVC’s Respiratory Therapy program to emphasize two specific areas: Professionalism and community involvement.
“It is important for RT students to exhibit professionalism in the classroom and at clinic site rotations,” she says. “That’s really how they’re going to be able to land the jobs they want.” Madison knows this first-hand, as she has participated in position interviews and the recruitment process for respiratory therapists.
“I also want students to be involved in specific organizations that advocate for respiratory care,” says Madison. “Being part of the respiratory community through organizational involvement gives students experience in networking with professionals in the field that will land them the job of their choice.”
Madison keeps a close eye on her students. “My favorite moment is when students validate their career choice. I see it when I get to go out to different clinical sites where students I’ve had in class are now out there in the field, using the skills I’ve taught them.”
There is a little-known secret to success that Madison likes to pass along to students and colleagues alike. Find a mentor. “Hal was my first boss who hired me at the hospital,” says Madison. “He gave me lots of experiences and career growth right from the start, and without those opportunities, I wouldn’t be where I am.” She encourages everyone to find a ‘Hal,’ and one day become a ‘Hal’ for others.
Madison is all about professionalism and wants to imprint that characteristic on anyone within her sphere of influence. That, coupled with a strong work ethic, will provide strong guide rails for any life venture. “My biggest thing is to have a really strong work ethic, taught to me by my mom, Lynn,” she says. “At the end of the day, the work ethic and the passion for something is what will get you through the tough times.”
Madison makes sure to balance those tough times with those things that clear your head and set it back on straight. Ryan is a professional team roper in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, and Madison is a skilled barrel-racer and also competes in team roping. “We pretty much travel weekends, going to different rodeos,” she says. “We live on a ranch with five horses, four dogs, our goat Howard, and pig Charlotte. That’s pretty much our lifestyle and I can’t imagine not doing that.”
Lately, though, Madison has been sitting on the sidelines cheering Ryan on, as they await the arrival of their son. “I get a lot of enjoyment out of that.”
Sometimes life is a little like barrel-racing: Quick turns, consequential decisions and full-speed ahead.