It takes professional skill and a great passion and commitment to care for patients in an highly infectious environment that the Covid-19 pandemic brought upon us. To fight this battle from the front lines, dedicated teams of respiratory therapists worked shoulder to shoulder with doctors, nurses, and other specialists to protect infected patients and help them heal. Respiratory therapists performed one of the most critical functions because patients with acute lung infections depended on them to breathe.
Most deservedly, respiratory therapists across the country have been described as unsung heroes of the Covid-19 pandemic. While their contributions during the pandemic are numerous, they have been notably recognized for their vital role in patient respiratory care. A respiratory therapist is a pulmonary physiology specialist who aids in the treatment of respiratory diseases. They identify and assess concerns related to breathing.
They collaborate with physicians, nurses, and other specialists to devise a treatment plan to improve symptoms. Respiratory therapists mostly saw patients with COPD and asthma, among other chronic conditions before the pandemic. They would also care for patients with influenza and other acute respiratory illnesses. All of this has been changed dramatically by the coronavirus.
Covid-19 Pandemic: Background Information
Covid-19 is essentially an infectious respiratory disease affecting the lungs and airways. It causes the lungs to fill with fluid, resulting in shortness of breath, inflammation, and lung failure. During the pandemic, the respiratory therapist’s job was to take steps to oxygenate the lungs of patients struggling to breathe. They were also responsible for supporting and helping patients recover from the virus.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for this dreaded disease called Covid-19. This virus was discovered in 2019 in China, which is why many people call it the Wuhan virus. Moreover, the virus soon became highly contagious and began to spread to the remaining parts of the world, including the United States. Respiratory symptoms were among the top covid-19 symptoms. These are quite similar to flu, cold, and pneumonia.
The pandemic cost a massive loss of life and health because the vicious virus attacked more than the respiratory system and lungs. These are a few facts about the pandemic:
- People with Covid-19 can become severely ill.
- Some infected people may suffer from long Covid, also known as post-Covid conditions.
- Older adults and patients with underlying medical conditions are more at risk of developing complications.
- Hundreds of thousands of patients in the United States died during the pandemic’s peak.
SARS-CoV-2 is part of the coronavirus family, which includes a wide array of diseases from chest colds and head colds to more severe diseases, such as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Coronavirus can quickly spread by way of droplets like other respiratory viruses. Masks were made a mandate during the pandemic because the virus could spread through breathing, speaking, sneezing, and coughing by an infected person.
The US Healthcare System
Over 330 million people live in the United States. It is supported by a highly complex healthcare system involving intertwining relationships between payers, patients, and providers receiving care. The healthcare system in the United States is in a constant state of evolution. This system has over 100,000 respiratory professionals working. They specifically care for patients that have breathing problems.
Respiratory therapists acted as front-line critical care workers to manage mechanical ventilation and perform other care functions for significantly ill patients during the pandemic. The US healthcare system does not provide universal coverage. This is more or less a mixed system where public and private health care coexist. Public health care is basically in the form of Medicare and Medicaid, while privately financed market coverage is through private health insurance plans.
Market provision of coverage and out-of-pocket payments predominate in providing and financing healthcare. Covid-19 has caused widespread and ongoing challenges for the existing health system. Over 1,750,000 people across the country were diagnosed with coronavirus in the first two weeks of the second wave. The number of new cases climbed daily, causing rampant pressure on the healthcare system and various healthcare providers.
The prevalence of the virus became widespread over the ensuing months despite public health measures and restrictions. Respiratory therapists stayed strong and active throughout the period to help their patients regain control over their breathing and recover from the virus. They never faltered in serving their patients or the nation during the covid-19 pandemic.
Why Respiratory Therapists Deserve High Recognition for Their Selfless Work
Respiratory therapists are uniquely trained clinicians responsible for evaluating and managing the respiratory needs of patients with airway and lung impairments. Their importance has been amplified with the spread of the virus. Coronavirus impacts primarily the patient’s ability to breathe independently. This became all too clear during the second wave of the pandemic.
Respiratory therapists across the nation showed longstanding skills through different tasks, such as maintaining and operating equipment for administering oxygen, using a ventilator for assisting the patient with breathing, managing therapy to improve lung function, preventing further respiratory infections, alleviating breathing problems, maintaining tracheotomy, and monitoring levels of different gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide).
Respiratory therapists have a round-the-clock job of caring for their patients. They provide the needed respiratory support to both acute and long-term patients. Respiratory therapists must work closely with an interdisciplinary team to successfully wean patients off a ventilator and restore independent breathing. They don’t just treat the clinical needs of patients. They also participate in holistic and overall rehabilitation.
Respiratory therapists work aggressively to help clients regain their freedom by eliminating or reducing their dependency on artificial airways and ventilators. This was one of the critical functions during the outbreak. They also take steps to wean clients from tracheotomies and ventilators wherever possible. The primary goal of any respiratory therapist is to get their clients clinically stable and increase their quality of life.
Covid-19 Affects Breathing
Several physical challenges accompany Covid-19. Not being able to breathe can be devastating. Respiratory therapists were responsible for ‘proning’ patients during the pandemic. This is the act of turning a patient on their stomach. Proning was found to be an effective method of helping patients that are on ventilator support breathe.
Patients on ventilators require 6 – 8 people to turn them over carefully while keeping the equipment and tubes intact. Respiratory therapists managed this and more while wearing several layers of personal protective equipment (PPE). Wearing PPE makes it hot and difficult to breathe.
Overwhelming Number of People Needed Life-Saving Healthcare and Support During the Pandemic
Covid-19 brought challenges as the cases rapidly rose in numbers, and the health system was not equipped to deal with that extensive scale of mass illness. When the lungs are acutely infected, it is not enough to help a patient breathe by placing them on a ventilator. The next step for respiratory therapists is to try everything possible to get them off the ventilator and help restore their natural breathing activity.
Respiratory therapists had to develop several contingency strategies when they didn’t have enough ventilators to go around. Many respiratory therapists took the help of respiratory CEUs online to learn about industry advancements and state-of-the-art methods.
They Worked in Difficult Situations
Since the early days of the pandemic, almost all healthcare professionals have been busy saving lives. Respiratory therapists were part of various essential groups and committees in virtually every hospital to problem-solve and respond to the growing crisis. Their teamwork-focused commitment and enhanced communication helped mitigate several disasters. Input at a ‘worker bee level’ is always good for the patient.
However, this also meant that the respiratory therapists had to work longer hours than usual. They took care of patients on top of their everyday responsibilities. They had to take measures to protect themselves from the virus as well.
They Put the Nation Before Themselves
One of the most excellent services provided by respiratory therapists and other medical professionals was that they put the nation before themselves. When everyone was hiding from coronavirus and taking measures to avoid infected people – respiratory therapists were right there at the frontline working with patients.
They spent long hours with patients trying to help them breathe and recover. Respiratory therapists did this while wearing PPE. They risked their lives and families every day that they went to work.
What Would Have Happened Without Our Hardworking Respiratory Therapists?
Respiratory therapy as an occupation has been an independent medical profession in the US for over 70 years. Respiratory therapists have demonstrated ready effectiveness in caring for critically ill patients. On a typical day, a respiratory therapist assesses the patient by measuring their blood oxygen saturation, respiratory rate, comfort, and energy levels. They also determine ways in which the treatment can be made more effective.
Without the dedication of respiratory therapists, patients would not have weaned off oxygen as quickly as they did. Respiratory therapists improved the lung function of covid-19 patients by adding therapies for increasing blood flow. A single RT may have been responsible for over 20 patients during increased Covid-19 hospital admissions. Most respiratory therapists had to work longer hours and more days with burgeoning patient volumes.
Many patients may have never improved without these heroes and their therapies, like Vapotherm and proning. They would have spent more time on ventilators and suffered other side effects. Respiratory therapists placed patients on their stomachs for 12 – 16 hours daily to better oxygenate their lungs. This was done for patients that were on ventilators.
Vapotherm is another therapy that helps open the airways and delivers a high dose of oxygen. It involves a high-flow nasal cannula. Respiratory therapists were responsible for managing patients on ventilators, which is challenging to endure treatment. This equipment is not without risks, and an RT’s job was to ensure the patient remained as safe as possible.
Respiratory therapists are specialized in customizing ventilation therapy intricately to provide the most beneficial and safest care to each patient. These professionals have also provided immense emotional support and care to patients when their family members could not be at their bedside. Respiratory therapists worked alongside nurses and doctors to ensure the patient recovered physically, mentally, and emotionally from the coronavirus.
Respiratory therapists across the country have helped thousands of coronavirus patients live to see another day. They stepped up to meet the demanding challenges of their job and the unprecedented pandemic. They performed a phenomenal role with stellar results by sharing the best practices for care. They worked long hours so hundreds of thousands of patients could receive the necessary care. Above all else, they placed the needs of their patients even before their own.
Are You Seeking a Break From Work and Looking to Dive Back into Learning and Education? Further Your Knowledge and Education with Advanced Respiratory CEUs Online Courses.
Respiratory therapists perform varied duties. They are sometimes jokingly referred to as ‘jack of all trades.’ They have to use creative thinking to overcome challenges on the fly. This was made abundantly evident during the pandemic when there was an acute shortage of ventilators. Respiratory therapists did everything in their power to help their patients breathe. This is one of the primary reasons why they have been called the unsung heroes working on the front lines right next to doctors and nurses.
However, with the coronavirus cases receding, it may be time that you give yourself some attention. It is time that you take a break. It can be challenging to step back from a profession, which is why you should take a break to reset and dive back into learning and education. Preferably after a well-deserved vacation!
You can use advanced respiratory CEUs online courses to further your knowledge without needing to limit yourself. Continuing education units are also a mandatory requirement by almost all state boards to renew respiratory therapist licenses. Several online portals offer respiratory therapy CEUs. TheCEPlace has revolutionized the online space where continuing respiratory care education is concerned.
You can now get a Certificate for Respiratory Care Education from the best-selling courses available on TheCEPlace. Many courses are accredited by the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and Continuing Respiratory Care Education (CRCE). There are specific modules containing case studies to give you a more in-depth and detailed understanding.
These are a few reasons why you should consider these online continuing education courses:
- Further your career by getting approved for a management position.
- Satisfying continuing education requirements are necessary for license renewal.
- Noticeable improvements in the standard of patient care.
- Stay updated with the latest advancements made in the field.
TheCEPlace gives respiratory professionals instant access to a wide array of easy-to-understand and affordable content through their site. You can complete your CEUs in a hassle-free manner.
Visit TheCEPlace Today for Your Online Continuing Respiratory Care Education
TheCEPlace is a one-stop portal for all continuing education needs of respiratory therapy professionals. You can choose the courses you want to complete and learn them online anytime. All you need is an internet connection to study at home. This is something you can complete while you are even on vacation or working from home.
Don’t miss this opportunity to complete the necessary requirements for maintaining an active license. TheCEPlace has all the required accreditations to offer online continuing education courses for RTs in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Call us at 833-388-2600 or complete this web form today to learn more about our online courses.