The current public health crisis due to the novel coronavirus has placed a spotlight on a healthcare specialty that has, until recently, suffered from a lack of awareness.
Respiratory therapists (RTs) are lung and breathing experts trained in critical care and cardiopulmonary medicine. They work with patients suffering from severe conditions including, cardiac and pulmonary disease.
RTs help patients of all ages who may need respiratory therapy to breathe better, whether they have illnesses like cystic fibrosis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma or emphysema.
In the fight to combat COVID-19, demand for individuals trained in respiratory care therapy has increased because these breathing specialists are a vital part of the critical healthcare team.
RTs specialize in assessing patients’ lung and breathing capacity. Should a patient require breathing assistance and a ventilator is needed, the RT performs intubations (inserts the tube into the patient) and ventilator management to ensure the ventilator is administering the appropriate levels of oxygen, air, or pressure into the lungs.
Before the global pandemic, a shortage of respiratory therapy professionals existed. The contributing factor for the deficiency of this specialty – lack of awareness.
“In addition, therapists are not considered healthcare providers under the federal government, but rather hospital or laboratory personnel,” said Lori Tinkler, the chief executive officer of the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) in a March 2020, interview with MedPage Today.
To help meet the need for more respiratory therapists in the workforce during this public health crisis, the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Respiratory Care Board of California, in conjunction with the NBRC has temporarily adjusted guidelines to allow more RTs into the field.
Visit the website for the Respiratory Care Board of California to find more information about respiratory therapy and to check the license status of licensed professionals in the state. https://www.rcb.ca.gov/