October 23rd to 29th is Respiratory Therapy Week. In recognition, we spoke to North York General Respiratory Therapist Lisa Watkins, a 30-year veteran of the hospital.
A critical role in patient care
It is my pleasure to introduce you to the role of the ‘RT’, as we are colloquially known. Respiratory Therapists are trained in critical care and cardiopulmonary medicine to work therapeutically with people who have acute critical conditions, cardiac and pulmonary disease.
The patient populations we service are neonatal, paediatric and adult. A snapshot of our day might see us giving surfactant to a newborn premature baby with respiratory distress syndrome, performing advanced airway management and application of mechanical ventilation in ICU, to assessing wards and ER patients in respiratory/cardiac compromise. We provide service to the Emergency Department, ICU, Labour & Delivery, and other units. We are also teachers and are involved in the clinical instruction and education of several members of the health care team. Our contribution also sees us creating organizational policies to enhance patient and family centered care.
A field that provides care on a global scale
People may not be aware that overall, RTs are global health care providers that are members of medical transport teams that provide care worldwide. During the pandemic, RTs had participated in missions to fly to places like Prague, Africa, U.S. and the Caribbean to provide care and transport patients. RTs are involved in global education of providers through an organization called Respiratory Therapists Without Borders with a mission to improve respiratory health through educational advancement of local health care providers worldwide.
Rising to meet the COVID-19 crisis
This pandemic Illuminated that Respiratory Therapists are instrumental in the fight against COVID-19. We rose to the crisis, risking ourselves and our families to work alongside diverse, passionate, diligent, skilled team members to save lives. So many of us have faced challenges from losing loved ones to the disease, to facing illness ourselves and uncertainty, yet we continue to be present and support each other. RTs have given support to several departments throughout this pandemic.
Respiratory Therapy Week is a wonderful opportunity for both the public and health care professionals in other disciplines to get to know Respiratory Therapy and learn about our contribution to our communities and health care organizations. It is a week to celebrate our accomplishments, to participate in learning, and embrace my colleagues. I would like to say a heartfelt thank you to the colleagues and hospital staff that I have had the pleasure of working with throughout my career. It has been an honour to work with this diverse team, and during this pandemic in particular, it showed how we can come together to face challenges and save lives.