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Role of Respiratory Therapists is a Matter of Life and Breath

It's Respiratory Care Week and a great time to shine a spotlight on our Respiratory Therapists (RTs) and the life-saving care they provide to clients throughout their rehabilitation and recovery.  

Our highly-skilled RTs provide 24/7 care to clients with many levels of respiratory support needs in the Subacute Rehabilitation Program at Special Tree's NeuroCare Campus in Romulus.  For many clients that means RTs work closely with an interdisciplinary team to successfully wean them off a ventilator to restore independent breathing.  For those clients who are dependent on a ventilator long-term, RTs are focused on helping them to live a more active, enjoyable life.  We asked RT Danille Jones (far right in photo) to explain more about her role at Special Tree and the big impact that Respiratory Therapy has on a client's independence and quality of life.

What specialized respiratory care does Special Tree provide?
As an RT, our goal is always to rehabilitate our clients to a safe and maintainable point of independence.  To achieve that, we provide many levels of specialized care at the NeuroCare Campus including ventilator support management, airway maintenance, CPAP/BIPAP support, Oxygen support, Vest therapy, Cough assist, and administration of respirtory treatments.  We have a weaning protocaol for our trach clients to progress toward decannulation, and for our ventilator clients to wean successfully from the ventilator.

For clients who are on a ventilator long-term, how do RTs help them to live a more active and enjoyable life?
We want our vent dependent clients to LIVE and enjoy things in the community.   We use ventilators that are based for home care which are small, easy to travel with and are able to run on battery for up to 8-hours.  Clients on vents are able to go outside on the trails, fishing in the pond, attend activities, got to the therapy gym, and truly engage in daily life.  We take vent clients to sporting events, museums, movies, and family gatherings.  We work closely with Recreational Therapy and the Activities teams to plan and coordinate outings and events to successfully engage vent clients in the community. 

What other therapies help support clients on a ventilator?
Special Tree as a whole embraces an interdisciplinary approach to the rehabilitation process.  RTs work with each client's therapy team to help them achieve their goals.  For example, RTs work very closely with Speech Therapy to monitor diet and signs of aspiration, speaking vale use, and capping trials.   Physical therapy is also essential to a vent client's rehabilitation.  Vent clients benefit greatly from gym-based therapy including the tilt table which puts them in a semi to full upright position which is great for pulmonary hygiene, lung expansion. muscle stimulation, and to help prevent pneumonia and atelectasis.  The therapy team is also diligent with feeback on the client's respiratory status during therapy sessions.  It truly is an interdisciplinary approach from every end of care! 

Why did you choose to become a Respiratory Therapist?
I worked in the automotive industry for eleven years and felt unfulfilled and stagnant in my career.  My friend is an RT and I asked to job shadow with her in the hospital.  I loved the variety of care and the constant interaction with patients and their families.  I took a buyout, finished school, and become an RT.

What makes you most proud of the Respiratory Therapy program at Special Tree?
I am proud of our team approach to developing a plan of care based on individualized goals for each client.   As a team we have a diverse background in Respiratory Care, which enables us to work together to make sure each client achieves their goals and continues to make progress in their rehabilitation and recovery.