As we celebrate Respiratory Care Week in 2020, we want to take a moment to recognize the vital importance of our respiratory therapists (RRTs) during the COVID-19 pandemic. When the public sends shoutouts to healthcare heroes treating COVID patients, they often thank nurses and physicians, specifically. Many people had never even heard of respiratory therapists before 2020. Yet, along with the doctors and nurses who dropped everything to heed the call for help in the first hotspots like New York and Washington state were hundreds and hundreds of RRTs. For those that may not be aware, here are some of the ways RRTs use their skills to strengthen the front lines in the fight against COVID-19:
- Providing expertise in assessing blood gasses
- Assisting with intubations and bronchoscopies
- Ventilator management
Respiratory Therapists Involved in all Levels of COVID-19 Patient Care
Respiratory therapists assist in the care of nearly all patients who are hospitalized with COVID-19, as well as numerous patients in emergency room and urgent care settings. Additionally, they are at an unusually high risk of being exposed to the COVID-19 virus due to the very nature of the care they provide. Working in a high-risk environment, worrying about infecting loved ones because of it, longer than usual working hours and conflicting information and guidance about the virus have contributed to increased stress and anxiety in RRTs. One study found that 90 percent of RRTs felt overwhelmed by new COVID-19 information and guidance.
International Year of the Nurse, International Year of the Respiratory Therapist
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the planet, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared 2020 to be the “International Year of the Nurse.” While we agree the designation couldn’t have come during a more appropriate and deserving year for our nurses, we consider 2020 to also be the Year of the Respiratory Therapist. They are on the front lines of the pandemic, have saved many lives and put themselves at risk of exposure every day to do so. According the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC), there have been more than 100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among healthcare workers exposed on the job as of September 2020. Of more than 1,000 reported deaths, at least 21 were respiratory therapists.
Happy Respiratory Care Week 2020 to all of our respiratory therapists. We hope you know how much we value you and appreciate all you do.