Respiratory therapists on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic


Respiratory therapists on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

Health Tidelands Health respiratory therapists are on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle.

Respiratory therapists are trained to operate ventilators and help patients with a variety of breathing challenges, including those caused by COVID-19.

When you hear about being on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, this is it.
Respiratory therapists – trained to operate ventilators and help patients with a variety of breathing challenges, including those caused by COVID-19 – have been in and out of hospital rooms providing needed care to every COVID-19 patient at Tidelands Health hospitals since the first confirmed case in the health system March 16 – and they are still going.
They’ve bravely battled this new virus –not because it is a duty but because it’s their calling. Mindful of the risk, they’ve compassionately provided crucial breathing support at each patient’s bedside, diligently donned personal protective equipment so many times they’ve lost count and come together to support each other as a team during this unprecedented and uncertain pandemic.

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“It’s required a massive amount of courage from the team,” says Marissa McCaslin, manager of respiratory therapy at Tidelands Health. “We are in each and every COVID-19 room on every single shift.”
But the 35 respiratory therapists remain steadfast in their mission, dedicated to caring for those who need them.
“I went into it very confident and very determined and willing to learn any lesson that came from it,” says Genna Bloomfield, a registered respiratory therapist who earned her degree from the St. Louis College of Health Careers last year. “To me, this is my job. This is a passion I have. I wanted to take care of these patients.”

At the bedside

Respiratory therapists work alongside physicians, nurses and other professionals to provide care to patients with breathing issues. They monitor oxygen content in a patient’s body and provide suitable oxygen therapy. It’s a crucial part of care not only for COVID-19 patients but also for patients with asthma, pneumonia, COPD, bronchitis and more.
“Our patient’s breathing is our No. 1 priority,” says McCaslin, who was inspired to become a respiratory therapist after growing up in Pennsylvania coal mining territory where many were stricken with lung issues, including her grandfather. “It takes a lot of training. It is all about making sure your patient is comfortable and receiving adequate ventilation.”

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COVID-19 attacks a patient’s lungs, leading to shortness of breath and, in some cases, a need for a ventilator to help with breathing.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory therapists are at the ready to respond to the critical care unit, emergency department, 2 East or anywhere in the hospitals where a COVID-19 patient needs assistance.
“We are there at the head of the bed from beginning to the end of it,” says Rhonda Atkinson, a certified respiratory therapist with 36 years of experience.

Supporting each other

Responding to this new coronavirus has brought the respiratory therapy team together.
Respiratory therapists start each day with a 6:30 a.m. huddle to get the latest update on COVID-19 patients in the health system, establish their plan for the day and identify any potential ways they can provide even better care.
“It really helped us all come together,” Atkinson says. “We wanted to be able to encourage each other and get through this together.”

Tidelands Health respiratory therapists have bravely battled the COVID-19 pandemic.

A respiratory therapist might see up to 30 patients during a 12-hour shift. It can take a physical and emotional toll.
But there are uplifting moments, too. A patient’s heartfelt thank you. Or the promise to say a prayer for those on the front lines. Bloomfield recalls one patient who repeated her gratitude every time she came in the patient’s room.
“She just kept saying ‘thank you’ and that she was praying for me,” Bloomfield says. “It kind of gives you that boost. It really touched my heart.”

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