Stanly Community College Respiratory Therapy students pictured from left to right: (top) Jennifer Arredondo-Castillo (Charlotte), Erika Dabbs (Locust), Kelly Porter (Concord), (Middle) Shelton Jones (Charlotte) Jennifer Ridenhour (Kannapolis) and Olivia Caudle (Midland), (Bottom) Sarah Jones (Charlotte).
Albemarle, NC – Many patients who become critically ill because of the COVID-19 respiratory virus need the help of a mechanical ventilator (or “life support machine”) until their lungs heal. There has been a lot of discussion around the need for more ventilators and more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), but there is a need for trained individuals who can manage mechanical ventilators for patients who have very sick lungs. The professionals who manage these lifesaving machines in the United States are Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCPs). In addition to managing ventilators, RCPs are responsible for a host of other tasks related to the cardiopulmonary system. Because of this incredible responsibility, the North Carolina Respiratory Care Board (NCRCB) had to respond swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 19, 2020, Tina Lewman, M.A.Ed., RRT-NPS, RCP, Program Director of the Respiratory Therapy Program at Stanly Community College, received an email from the NCRCB. Attached was a signed declaratory ruling that instituted the Respiratory Care Assistant (RCA) program. “This means that our senior students, who will be graduating in May, can begin working now as assistants in the hospital under the supervision of a licensedRespiratory Care Practitioner,” said Mrs. Lewman.
The implementation of the Respiratory Care Assistant program will aid in adding to the workforce needed torespond to this pandemic. “As RCAs, students will alleviate a greater workload from the licensed RCP by treating patients with the needed oxygen therapy, aerosolized medication therapy, and chest physiotherapy. While these procedures may be considered routine in other circumstances, these procedures take on a much greater significance during the COVID-19 crisis. They will be a valuable resource for the Respiratory Therapy departments and their contributions will help save lives,” explained Dr. William Croft, Ed.D., PhD., RRT, RCP, Executive Director of the North Carolina Respiratory Care Board.
Seven students from the Stanly Community College Respiratory Therapy class of 2020 have already accepted positions through Atrium Health as Respiratory Care Assistants. “They interviewed last week and were offered jobs this week,” said Amy Witschey, BSRT, RRT-ACCS, RCP, Director of Clinical Education for the Respiratory Therapy program at SCC. “We usually prepare our senior students by hosting ‘mock interviews’ with real department managers before they actually interview for jobs. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were not able to schedule mock interviews this year but it does not look like it hurt them in any way,” she says.
For more information about the Respiratory Therapy program at Stanly Community College, please contact Tina Lewman at (704) 991-0268 or firstname.lastname@example.org.