By Adrienne Hellinger, RRT-ACCS
WSCC Director of Respiratory Therapy
When I decided to go into the medical field I knew I wanted to be involved in direct patient care, but I also knew I didn't want to be a nurse. After researching allied health programs, I learned that respiratory therapy combined all the things I was excited about in healthcare with a specialized focus.
I often tell people that the "adrenaline junkies" and people that hate doing the same thing every day are the ones who fall in love with respiratory therapy. You get to interact directly with patients and their families providing therapy, education, and establishing relationships, while simultaneously being a critical player in every healthcare emergency because airway and breathing are the top priority in lifesaving situations.
Witnessing my first true medical emergency was when everything "clicked" for me. I watched training, knowledge, and skill combine within the organized chaos of CPR, and a person's life was saved that day. I wanted to be a part of that. Whether it's the ICU, ER, surgery, or nursery, respiratory therapists are literally always where the action is in a hospital setting. I can honestly say that within the course of one shift I have found myself in all of those locations providing patient care. But, a hospital setting isn't for everyone and respiratory therapists can be found in many other roles like pulmonary rehabilitation, home care, outpatient lung testing, and sleep labs testing patients with sleep disorders that affect breathing.
Respiratory therapists have the capacity to work in multiple areas, and the capability to treat any patient demographic. This is where our specialized education really shines in the medical field. We are trained to be leaders in all types of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, manage ventilators and other breathing machines, administer drugs to the lungs, monitor cardiopulmonary systems, and measure lung function. When a patient is struggling to breathe I believe they'd choose a provider that spent their whole education training for this moment. That's when you want a respiratory therapist.
I am honored to be in the position of training students to become the healthcare providers our community needs. I cannot emphasize enough how desperately our community needs respiratory therapists right now. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in Respiratory Therapy, you can get the training you need right here at Washington State Community College. For details about our RT program, visit wscc.edu/respiratory-therapy or call me for a personal tour of our incredible facilities at 740.885.5690.