The rapid spread of COVID-19 throughout the New Orleans region is widely known. Ochsner Health is working hard to fight this virus and provide care for patients, especially for those on ventilators.
COVID-19, a disease contracted from the novel type of coronavirus, primarily impacts the patient's respiratory system but can also lead to kidney failure and other complications. Louisiana has more than 21,000 COVID-19 cases, many of whom need, or previously needed, ventilators.
While ventilator availability is critical to fighting COVID-19, ventilators do not function on their own. They are complicated machines that require regular maintenance and calibration and as with all technology, someone knowledgeable to troubleshoot issues when they arise.
Enter respiratory therapists who carry out these life-saving measures for breathing, the team I’m proud to lead at Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans.
Respiratory therapists are specialists in our most primary human function: breathing. We attend a specific program, hold a state license and must complete clinical rotations, similar to the nursing field.
Every day, respiratory therapists support our nurses and physicians who oversee the care of COVID-19 patients. We work with medical teams on multiple units in our hospitals to ensure their patients maintain healthy oxygen levels and determine the next course of action. We even do this in the air with our Ochsner Flight Team. We serve patients of all ages and across any number of medical challenges, but most commonly, we serve patients undergoing complex surgeries, premature babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, and patients with chronic issues such as asthma or lung disease.
In this field, we hold patient integrity in the highest regard, given that we often work with them in their most vulnerable state.
Without an available vaccine or proven cure, patients with COVID-19 are certainly vulnerable. Difficulty breathing is a core challenge of this disease. In the worst cases, COVID-19 can lead to acute respiratory distress syndrome, which often requires a ventilator. As ICUs continue to remain full and more patients are expected in the coming weeks, ventilators – and the respiratory therapists who oversee them – are a critical part of the response.
Surma D. Jain, MD, a pulmonologist at Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans, says, "Our respiratory therapy team has been a crucial part of our success during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are on the front lines of patient care. The talented and dedicated respiratory therapists here at Ochsner have proven to be invaluable to the success of our ICU, hospital medicine, and emergency room teams."
Respiratory therapists spend considerable time programming high alert medical alarms on ventilators that will alert nearby staff if a patient is experiencing issues with oxygen levels, breathing rate, air pressure, and more. We also respond to "code blue" and “rapid response” calls, an emergency response system that alerts staff to respond immediately when a patient is in respiratory distress or unable to breathe. Teamwork on our team is crucial to ensuring patient health and safety every day.
Breathing is a 24/7 function, so we're a 24/7 team.
As Ochsner Health continues to fight this pandemic, I’m proud to know our respiratory therapists are working hard to care for our community. To all my fellow respiratory therapists – thank you for your service in this fight against COVID-19.
Are you a respiratory therapist ready to join the fight? Talk with us now at our Virtual Career Center!