Respiratory therapists are vital part of patient care

By Mike O'Kelly

Respiratory therapists include (front row, from left): Jackie Butrum-Sullivan, Robin Ainsworth and Jon Walters. Back row, from left: Sandy House and Janae Lujano.

Respiratory therapists include (front row, from left): Jackie Butrum-Sullivan, Robin Ainsworth and Jon Walters. Back row, from left: Sandy House and Janae Lujano.

St. Jude respiratory therapists are a vital part of the patient care team. They are emergency responders who assist patients with breathing or cardiopulmonary disorders and consult with physicians to develop patient treatment plans.

Twenty-nine staff members in Respiratory Therapy cover the entire hospital, inpatient and outpatient on a 24-hour basis. Part of the Critical Care–Pulmonary Medicine Department, Respiratory Therapy is celebrating National Respiratory Care Week through October 26.

Time management is of huge importance for the team. Respiratory therapists think critically and work alongside physicians and nurses to save lives.  

“No matter what type of illness it is, if a person gets sick enough, they have trouble breathing,” said Jason Rains, Respiratory Therapy director. “When a patient gets too sick or too tired to breathe effectively, we are there to help.”

Respiratory therapists respond to patient needs throughout the hospital, and staff members rotate coverage in different areas. Staff members regularly provide breathing treatments for patients, checking equipment and assisting with the movement of patients to ensure that airways are not affected during bed turns. They also accompany patients who are intubated or on ventilators during transports throughout the hospital.

Respiratory therapists are always present in the Intensive Care Unit to handle airway management and mechanical ventilation needs.

“When a patient begins to have trouble breathing, we can step in with lifesaving equipment and therapies to help,” said respiratory therapist Robin Ainsworth. “If the breathing problems persist, then we assist with inserting a breathing tube and managing a ventilator to assist their breathing.”

Staff members also educate parents and caregivers on managing the care of patients with tracheostomy tubes—teaching them how to properly handle and change equipment.

“Therapists at St. Jude have made a commitment to provide professional excellence and compassionate care to our patients,” Ainsworth said. “We are fortunate to work here and follow our passion.” 

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