Since first being proclaimed in 1982, National Respiratory Care Week has been celebrated in hospitals and clinics by respiratory therapists, their healthcare colleagues and patients.
This year is different. COVID-19 has made us all acutely aware of the important work respiratory therapists do. In the early months of the outbreak, therapists traveled to the places that were the hardest hit to help overworked staff. They managed patients on ventilators and when there were more patients than ventilators, they improvised.
As one respiratory therapist told MedpageToday a few months ago, “When you’ve maxed everything out, where do you go from there?”
Not only are they frontline workers, their jobs brought them in close contact with the sickest patients, exposing them to the virus in a way few other healthcare workers were.
In more normal times, respiratory therapists work in a variety of settings, including in private homes, hospitals, care facilities and sleep centers, treating patients with lung and breathing problems. The range of these problems is broad, from asthma and bronchitis to trauma patients and including those with Lou Gehrig’s disease and sleep apnea.
Becoming a respiratory therapist requires an associate’s degree in respiratory care and licensing by the state. The National Board for Respiratory Care conducts a formal exam, which is recognized by the licensing boards of several states. Once licensed, a therapist must maintain their skills, demonstrating that by earning continuing education credits.
For the lifesaving work respiratory therapists are doing this year, and the critical job they do all the time, we say thank you to these professionals and honor their commitment to us all.