Respiratory Therapists are the Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Outbreak

Sixteen years ago my girlfriend (now wife) told me she wanted to go to UAMS to study respiratory therapy. I had absolutely no clue what that was. Turns out, I am not the only one. Over the following years, I have seen the profession go mostly unnoticed by people outside of medical professions. Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, it has become one of the most critical positions on the front lines of the pandemic.

Respiratory Therapy often gets erroneously thrown into nursing by non-medical folks, but the job is nowhere near the same. Respiratory Therapy, as you might imagine, deals with treating respiratory issues in patients. For 12 years my wife worked primarily in the NICU because the most critical issues with newborn and premature babies involve respiratory since the lungs are one of the last things to develop, the treatment often makes the difference in if the baby lives or dies. Many of the other critical areas of medicine are also highly dependent on respiratory, and the treatments and care they give often make the difference in the sickest of the sick patients.

COVID-19 is exclusively a respiratory disease. When you hear them talk on the news about ventilators, or the lack of them, and how the worst COVID-19 patients need them to survive, it is a Respiratory Therapist behind that machine. They are monitoring it, adjusting treatments, and often advising the doctors on how to treat those patients. They are working hand in hand with the doctors and nurses to provide exceptional care in the most critical of times.

Sadly when you hear those outside the medical community, politicians mostly, talk about providing support for those on the front lines of COVID-19, you hear them talk about supporting the doctors and nurses. Those two professions are absolutely critical in the fight against this disease, but the Respiratory Therapists also deserve to be part of that conversation and gain respect for the work they do.

This is the time to elevate that profession as part of the critical core of medical professions. If we are looking at things like hazard pay, or bonuses for hiring extras right now, it needs to be for the Respiratory Therapist as well. They are every bit as critical.

I also want to point out, this is not even about my wife, she moved off the front lines last year to take a management job in the respiratory department. It is about the hundreds of Respiratory Therapists that deserve a tremendous amount of respect from the public, politicians, and everyone else as they fight this disease. They never do it for fame, and damn sure don’t do it for money. They all do it because they believe in helping the most critically ill patients and giving them a second chance at life.

This is not about food, so sorry (not sorry) about that. However, Rock City Eats has always enjoyed a close relationship with medical professions. Many of our current and former writers either also work in medical fields or have spouses who do. Many of our core readers are a part of a medical family as well. It is important to us here, and I feel it is the time to share.

Restaurants, when you are delivering food to those on the front line, consider dropping off for the Respiratory departments too. Politicians, as you consider bills to help medical professionals fight this disease, make sure you have provisions to include support for respiratory departments. Everyone else, make sure when you are thanking doctors and nurses for their work in fighting this, thank the Respiratory Therapist and other medical professionals who are also on the front lines of this disease and are making a difference.

Also, my wife is going to kill me over this article. She, like every other Respiratory Therapist I know, doesn’t do any of this for the attention. They do it because they care. Which is exactly why the profession needs a little more attention.

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Respiratory Therapists are the Unsung Heroes of the COVID-19 Outbreak