Respiratory Care Week Begins October 22.
Respiratory therapists are a highly educated group of health care professionals
who take care of patients with chronic and acute conditions related to
the cardio-pulmonary system. Those include, but aren’t limited to
asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cystic fibrosis,
traumatic injuries and cardiovascular surgeries. Respiratory therapists
work with newborn infants, children and adults, says Dawn Robinson, director,
Respiratory Care, at
Covenant Medical Center and
“Respiratory therapists are very vital to the health care team. A
lot of people don’t understand what we do; a lot of times at the
bedside, patients and families consider us to be nurses, or ‘the
breathing nurse.’ We are right there at the bedside with the physician,
making decisions about how best we can take care of a patient, especially
with a chronic lung problem or injury. If it has something to do with
your lungs, we’re going to be there taking care of you,” Robinson said.
What RTs do:
- Assess patients by listening to their lungs, obtaining vital signs and
- Provide diagnostic breathing tests and treatments
- Provide various respiratory interventions to help improve lung function.
- Collect and analyze blood to help diagnose different disorders with oxygenation
and ventilation in the blood.
- Manage patient airways and ventilators at the bedside
- Assist with the pediatric and neonatal transport team and fly in the helicopter
to get pediatric and neonatal patients back to our facility for care.
- Adult RTs, trained in intubation can place artificial airways (put in breathing
tube) in an emergency, when or if a physician is not available.
Taking care of lung health:
- Don’t smoke
- Avoid pollutants that can damage your lungs
- Prevent infection by washing your hands and getting vaccines
- Take care of your general health; exercise
- Get regular medical check ups
“Not smoking is
the number one thing you can do for yourself and your lung health,”
Robinson reiterated. “Your weight can really impact your breathing,
the heavier you are, the more difficulty you may have breathing. Also,
allergies and pollutants can absolutely trigger asthma in patients, so
follow (or make) an asthma action plan with your primary care physician
Robinson said sometimes asthma patients don’t necessarily follow
their regimens; some COPD patients don’t necessarily take their
medications the correct way. A respiratory therapist is one of the specialists
who can completely educate you on the proper way to use your asthma/COPD
medications so that you can get the greatest benefit from their use. RTs
also can assist in creating action plans with primary care providers to
help patients manage their chronic conditions more effectively and improve
quality of life while living with a chronic condition.
“We all taking breathing for granted,” she concluded. “Breathing
is part of our autonomic nervous system and you don’t have to even
think about it; but when you can’t breathe, having a respiratory
therapist available along with the rest of the healthcare team is of great