Respiratory therapy is best described as the assessment and treatment of patients with both acute and chronic dysfunction of the cardiopulmonary system. The respiratory therapist (RTs) have demanding responsibilities related to patient care and serve as vital members of the health care team at Sycamore. With specialization in treating diseases, infections, or viruses of the cardiopulmonary system, such as lung cancer, asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and pneumonia, they provide inpatient, outpatient, and Emergency Department services.
RTs must have a broad knowledge of the pathophysiology of the cardiopulmonary system and the complex procedures required to properly diagnose and recommend the most appropriate treatment methods. RTs are an integral part of a medical team. With that connection, they develop and implement treatment plans to manage a patient’s condition.
Talking with Val Combs, manager of the Cardiopulmonary Unit, you can’t help but notice how proud and supportive she is of her team. She stated, “The therapists at Sycamore are caring, compassionate, and professional and are valued members of the patient care team. They see patients and their families at their most critical moments, including end of life care. They provide the best treatment and care that produce life-changing results, helping their patients return to their homes and families.”
The Cardiopulmonary Department has 20 staff members—nine of which have been at Sycamore between 20 to 40 years. There are 18 RCPs, one ECG Technician, and one office assistant. They perform many procedures that are not typical for departments of their size, such as holter monitoring, cardiac stress tests, electrocardiograms, blood gasses, pulmonary function testing, bronchoscopies, all respiratory care modalities, pre-op testing, and patient education.
With this extensive knowledge of the cardiopulmonary system, the therapists must be experts in the machines and devices used to manage the appropriate treatments,
including managing patients on ventilators and artificial airway devices. Many of our therapists have multiple certifications and training that allows them to respond to any type of situation in the hospital.
In May, the department started an inpatient COPD education program about many aspects of pulmonary disease. The RCPs focus on the proper use of home respiratory equipment and medications, smoking cessation, and understanding patients’ lung conditions and the importance of following up with their physician post-discharge.
2018 goals: One of our department goals is to have a positive impact on COPD re-admissions at Sycamore through patient education. The goal is to decrease COPD re-admissions to less than 14 percent.
Something we are proud of: Our respiratory protocol program, which began in the late 1980s, was one of the first successful protocol programs in the country and is one of the most comprehensive programs being used today. RTs assess every patient admitted to the hospital as well as a significant number of patients in the Emergency Department. Our protocol program allows RTs to create and administer a treatment plan for each patient that best meets their needs by delivering, effective, quality respiratory care.
Some interesting facts: It is not uncommon for RTs to see and treat between 30-40 patients per shift. RTs follow patients through their admittance to the ED, hospitalization, and discharge. We have a professional ladder program that encourages staff to obtain high-level skills, provide education, and promote community service with a goal to develop well-rounded therapists who are involved in the department and the profession.
Respiratory care has so many acronyms that are used regularly, it’s like RT alphabet soup: CPAP, BIPAP, NIV, PEP, HME, APRV, IMV, CPT, PEEP, HHHFO2; we could go on and on.
Meet Val Combs: 2018 is a big year for my husband and me. We were blessed with our grandchild in July from our oldest daughter and son-in-law. Calvin is our pride and joy! Our youngest daughter is getting married in November. We have a lot of reasons to celebrate! It will be a beautiful wedding.
Favorite Quote: “We will make it work.”
How long have you been with Sycamore and the network? 40 years. I have been at Sycamore in the Cardiopulmonary Department since we opened in October of 1978–a founding member I guess you could call it.
What is your favorite part of the job? Seeing my staff grow as a respiratory care practitioners. I enjoy hiring new therapists and watching them develop their skills, become excellent bedside caregivers, become mentors to students and other staff by sharing what they know, and taking on additional responsibilities in our department.
What do you do for fun? Spend time with my family and travel. We try to go on two cruises per year. My husband and I love cruising!
Who are the co-workers who make you laugh? We laugh a lot in our department and have many inside jokes that probably cause people from other departments to scratch their heads and say, “I don’t get it.”
What’s something we may not know about your employees? We are a family. We are a small and close group. Many of us grew up in our careers together.
Thank you to Val and the team at the Cardiopulmonary Department! Your roles are vital to providing the best care for our patients. Thanks for everything that you do!
Coming Up Next Month: The department spotlight will be on Unit 3 West (Bariatric and Orthopedic).