With the role of the respiratory therapist being more vital than ever to the health of our nation, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University responded to the call by fast-tracking course completion and graduate seniors a month earlier than traditionally.
Program Director of Respiratory Therapy Sue Davis said, "As many of you have heard, there is a shortage of Respiratory Therapists to manage the ventilators and provide respiratory care due to the rapid rise in infections with COViD-19. In response to the need in the Baton Rouge area, the Respiratory Therapy Program faculty have developed a plan that would allow the senior students to graduate mid-April. The current seniors are excited about this opportunity to help meet our communities' needs in this time of crisis."
These specialized health care practitioners are on the front line in the COVID-19 fight, working with physicians to help patients survive. COVID-19 attacks the lungs and respiratory system of patients. This is where ventilators come in to help. About five percent of patients with COVID-19 cannot sustain normal respiratory function and are required to have the placement of a breathing tube into their airway. Respiratory therapists determine the appropriate ventilator settings to match the patient's respiratory needs. From that point, they provide constant monitoring and assessment and modify the setting as the patient's condition improves or worsens.
Dean of School of Health Professions Susan Steele-Moses stated that RRTs are incredibly critical and are on the front lines of the management of airways and ventilators. "As a nurse, I cannot intubate a patient. I cannot manage a patient's airway who requires ventilation."
President Tina S. Holland conveyed, “This is one of a number of examples of how the education of health care professionals across multiple disciplines is crucial to meeting current needs. The pressures created by COVID-19 on the healthcare workforce will be with us well after the flattening of the curve, and we are being creatively resourceful in responding with an increased number of well educated, highly qualified professionals.”
There are about 150,000 respiratory therapists in the U.S., and the need for more continues to grow. There will be 11 seniors who will graduate from the program in April from FranU.
The senior RT class seem to all be on the same page about being excited to start helping the community during its time of need. Meghan Pecora ’20 said, “I think this is a wonderful opportunity and I am looking forward to graduating early so I can be a part of the health care team that is fighting against this pandemic.”
Buenalyn Gaffney ’20 had a similar outlook, “It is a good opportunity to use the skills we have learned from our professors and through clinical sites during this time of need. My ultimate goal is to serve our community in any and every way I can.”