What’s it like to be a Respiratory Therapist during COVID-19

When the COVID-19 virus first started making its way around the world, the term "frontline workers" became a common phrase we saw on major news outlets. Stories of medical workers suiting up in their PPEs were the headlines of the day. Sometimes we saw the feel-good stories and other times, we saw the gruesome realities of what it's like to be working at the hospitals during COVID-19. It's been almost a year now since the pandemic began but our frontline workers are still hard at work. We were fortunate enough to speak to Respiratory Therapist, Kelsi at the Ottawa Hospital who took time to answer our questions and gave us a glimpse of what a typical day in her job looks like.

96644813_2814660288761316_5068604872966799360_n (1)

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Kelsi. First of all, from the bottom of our hearts, we are so grateful for frontline workers such as yourself who are risking their lives everyday to help fight this virus. Can you tell us about your role as a respiratory therapist and walk us through what a typical day may look like?
No two days are ever a like for an RT. On any given day we have be found in the emergency room, intensive care unit, newborn intensive care unit and medicine floors. We work with patients of all ages from a premature infant with severely underdeveloped lungs to a senior citizen about to take their last breath. We respond to any breathing or cardiopulmonary issue. This includes all code blues, traumas, asthma attacks, allergic reaction, running the ventilators and babies and mother’s in distress. Basically anything that can affect your ability to breathe we are there.

What inspired you to get into this field?
In university I always knew I wanted to be in healthcare but I never knew which direction that was. I considered pharmacy but eventually realized I wanted to be in hospital with direct patient care everyday. I started doing a search in other allied health careers and came across RT. Given the professional is not widely known I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into. After my first day in the program I started to realize how many of my own family members could benefit from seeing a respiratory therapist. I was sold from day one.

I know there’s probably been a lot of very scary moments during this pandemic but has there been any particular occasion that has made you smile?
I’ve recently been deployed to a team going to all long term care homes in Ottawa to test residents and staff for covid 19. Many of the homes are extremely understaffed and lack basic PPE. However seeing how dedicated their staff are to the residents is truly inspiring. This fight has moved to our LTC and retirement homes and to see how the community has come together to support them is something I will never forget. They are in desperate need of our help so please if you have any PPE to donate (ie. gowns, masks, gloves or visors) please consider giving it to a LTC home near you.


What is something you want everyone at home to know about the fight against COVID-19?
Although our numbers have started to look promising, it is still very real and our hospitals are at a tipping point. Covid isn’t all we treat and with increased Covid numbers it can really impact our ICUs. Do your part and limit your social gathers and only go out for essential services.

Other than practicing good hygiene, staying at home and practicing social distancing, I know many people want to find ways to help frontline workers. Are there any particular ways we can give back?
It’s a tough time for everyone right now. If you can try and find a way to help out in any way you can, a little can go a long way. The homeless in particular have been hit hard by Covid so if you are able to, donate some clothes, outdoor gear or sleeping accessories to your local shelters.