Respiratory Care Practitioner
Q: What is your superpower?
A: The ability to stay calm in a situation that can easily become hysterical. Being calm helps relieve the added tension in an intense moment.
Q: What is your name, and where do you work?
A: Lance, Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital.
Q: What made you decide on Respiratory Therapy?
A: I decided I’d give the field a try in lieu of pursuing a more advanced degree. However, in the process, I fell in love with my profession and never looked back.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
A: I wake up at 5am to get ready for my 12 hour shift. Upon arrival at 7am, we have a shift huddle to delegate assignments. A therapist covers each part of the hospital between 2 buildings. Anything of respiratory concern is down our avenue, which makes each day and each part of the hospital very unpredictable. I could have an assignment where I'm flooded with very sick trauma patients in the ER that require intubation and mechanical ventilation. I can have a busy assignment covering unstable medical-surgical patients who are on the fence of requiring ICU-level of care, and being part of the rapid response team, it's my job to notice signs of early respiratory failure. I can also have complicated pulmonary-related patients whose lungs are unresponsive to various changes made on the mechanical ventilator as I constantly critically think through waveform interpretations on the ventilator in conjunction with interpretations of blood pH and oxygen levels. I also may have a busy shift being part of the resuscitation of premature infants, who in almost all cases, improve with non-invasive respiratory interventions.
In between these various assignments, my colleagues (both RCPs and RNs) and I lean on each other for support and suggestions on various interventions and difficult scenarios. As the shift comes to a close, I reflect on if I have applied my best efforts and care possible for the day as I shower, have dinner with my wife, then lounge on the sofa as I catch up on sports or something on Netflix.
Q: What do you wish that people outside of healthcare knew/understood about Respiratory Care Practitioners?
A: That we are an integral part of patient care and we do more than just give breathing treatments. Requiring an RCP means that these patients are having a difficult time in their current state of sickness with either oxygenation or ventilation, the premise of making sure life is sustainable. Because-so, this means that we as RCPs pool our collection of expertise and evidence-based knowledge on the relevant pulmonary disease and recommend/manage our interventions to the best of our capability to give patients a shot at improved mortality.
Q: What do you think your superpower is?
A: The ability to stay calm in a situation that can easily become hysterical. Being calm helps relieve the added tension in an intense moment. It helps me systematically think through a treatment process in a critical fashion so that I minimize mistakes and provide optimal treatment. It helps me keep closed-loop communication with others, which is a vital part in patient care.
Q: Can you tell us about a moment or story that reminds you why you love being a nurse?
A: There are many moments that come to mind. One fond moment was when our ICU had a very sick patient diagnosed with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome who was very difficult to manage in terms of oxygenation and ventilation on the ventilator for 1 week straight. Multiple ventilator changes were made throughout the week.
I built great trust with a particular Critical Care Attending. One of the days, as we were doing ICU rounds, he looked at me and said “Fix him”. I recommended that we manage the patient with a more in-depth lung protective ventilation strategy on the ventilator along with taking full control over the patient's breathing. While gauging what is called respiratory mechanics constantly on the ventilator, the patient improved drastically within 2 days, which led to the patient being liberated from the ventilator sooner rather than later.
Gaining that trust and approval from our critical care ICU attending in managing a difficult patient was such a rewarding feeling that I won’t forget.