By Uvalde Leader-News Staff, October 29, 2020
The following information was submitted by Karla Radicke, marketing manager for Uvalde Memorial Hospital (UMH).
From helping premature babies breathe to saving the life of a patient in cardiac arrest, there’s no doubt respiratory teams have always been on the front line.
There has always been urgency in the role of a respiratory therapist in a hospital setting, but the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic thrust respiratory care into the public spotlight like never before.
“As respiratory therapists continue to manage BiPAP machines and ventilators that are keeping many COVID-19 patients alive, health care professionals and the public have begun to see an increasing awareness of their profession,” said Adam Apolinar, the chief operating officer for Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
To date the hospital’s respiratory care team has been directly involved in the care and recovery of 186 COVID-19 positive patients admitted to UMH during the pandemic.
The first COVID-19 positive patient was admitted on May 4 and while only 21 patients have required BiPAP and seven patients have required ventilation, almost every COVID-19 patient is treated by the respiratory care team via high-flow oxygen therapy and Pruning positioning.
July has been the peak month for COVID-19 care with a daily average census of 14 COVID-19 positive patients in-house and the single highest daily census reaching 44 total patients, 22 of which were COVID-19 positive.
“The education, experience, and ability to assess blood gases, assist in intubations and bronchoscopies, and specialization in ventilator management, exposes respiratory therapists to the sickest patients and dangerous aerosolizing procedures,” said Apolinar.
Apolinar also explained that working in a rural hospital, such as UMH, this specialty is even more important. In the absence of a pulmonologist, the hospitalist (physician in-house for hospitalized patients) and other physicians depend on the expertise of the respiratory team to manage the respiratory status of patients.
“We are fortunate to have a progressive and highly-skilled respiratory care team. What we have here is not found in most rural hospitals. The team and the equipment we have given us a unique advantage to care for patients in our service region throughout the pandemic,” said Tom Nordwick. CEO of Uvalde Memorial Hospital.
“We have a department of 12 individuals and we provide respiratory services 24/7,” said Felisha Tinker, RRT-NPS, UMH cardiopulmonary manager.
Tinker has over 19 years of experience and has been at UMH for eight years. She oversees six full-time respiratory therapists, three additional part-time therapists, and two electrocardiogram (EKG) technicians.
The department provides respiratory system services such as pulmonary function exams, cardiac Holter and event exams, pulmonary drainage special procedures, sputum analysis, humidity-aerosol therapy and education, oxygen therapy, resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, and more.
The department also offers regular educational classes for asthma and is in the process of becoming certified for “CATCH My Breath,” an empowerment curriculum aimed at equipping youth with the knowledge and skills they need to make educated decisions about e-cigarettes and vaping.
The course will be offered to youth and schools throughout the hospital’s service region in the spring of 2021.
October 25-31 is National Respiratory Care Week. Local respiratory therapists have always been saving lives behind the scenes, and now they’re saving lives for everyone to see.