Behind the Scenes on the Front Lines: Respiratory Therapy
Breathing has perhaps never been on the nation’s mind as much as it has during this past year, due to COVID-19.
Respiratory therapists have always been an essential part of the health care team, but especially during the pandemic, they have been invaluable in assisting patients with breathing and airway problems, high oxygen demands and ventilator care.
What are the ways your department has contributed during COVID that most Penn State Health employees aren’t aware of?
“COVID made us really think outside the box. Standard vent settings or medicated therapy didn’t work with COVID patients, so we worked closely with the physicians, nurses and critical care team to come up with the best course of action for each patient.” ~ Erica Simpson, respiratory therapist, nightshift lead, Holy Spirit Medical Center
“We have been advocates for staff safety as well as patient safety.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, respiratory therapist, St. Joseph Medical Center
What is a typical workday like for your department?
“Members of our clinical team go on rounds every four hours to give medicine and do therapy. In between, we clean and restock our equipment and respond to calls for acutely distressed patients, emergencies and high-risk births. Our diagnostics team performs testing and does patient education in an effort to aid in diagnosis and minimize readmissions.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
What has been the biggest challenge your department faced during COVID?
“Feelings of helplessness as we’ve watched people suffer through this respiratory illness that we haven’t fully understood how to treat.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
“Keeping up with constant changes of guidelines in caring for COVID patients.” ~ Renee Rock, respiratory therapist, Hershey Medical Center
“Equipment being on back order and receiving new equipment that required additional training.” ~ Erica Simpson, Holy Spirit Medical Center
What qualities best describes your co-workers?
“Hard-working, compassionate and calm under pressure.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
“We take pride in how we work as a team to make sure patient care is our top priority.” ~ Renee Rock, Hershey Medical Center
What about your department are you most proud of?
“It was very hectic and stressful at times, and everyone just stepped up and helped and didn’t complain.” ~Erica Simpson, Holy Spirit Medical Center
“We always have each other’s backs.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
What was the biggest thing that changed during the pandemic?
“Watching family members saying their goodbyes over an iPad or phone call… It was sad to see that family couldn’t be at the bedside with their loved one.” ~ Erica Simpson, Holy Spirit Medical Center
“A renewed sense of humanity, not only in the hospital, facing this new virus and watching patients be without visitors and family, but in my personal life as well. I’m hopeful we can keep as much of this attitude of community and compassion as possible.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
What is one fact about your department that you wish everyone at Penn State Health knew?
“Respiratory Therapy is an integral part of the interdisciplinary team. We’re involved in the patient’s plan of care and provide respiratory support with different modalities such as ventilation, specialty gasses and hyperinflation therapy, to name a few.” ~ Renee Rock, Hershey Medical Center
“We work in NICU, pediatrics, adult critical care, adult med-surg, and the emergency department. It’s one of the many benefits of working in a small community hospital.” ~ Margaret McGinnis, St. Joseph Medical Center
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