Respiratory Care Week shines a light on respiratory therapists and their work in hospitals

RAPID CITY, S.D. — The week of October 24 through the 30 is celebrated as Respiratory Care Week, to honor and recognize the important work of respiratory therapists.

Respiratory therapists specialize in cardiopulmonary areas, helping to make sure patients’ lungs are being cared for.

On a regular basis, respiratory therapists at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital work with a wide array of patients, ranging from newborns in the NICU to adults. The hospital currently has around 50 respiratory therapists on duty.

“We are educating patients every day along their disease process about what they need to do outside the hospital or in the hospital to get better,” explained respiratory therapist Mindy McManigal. “And then we also assist the physicians with procedures such as bronchoscopies.”

With the onset and continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, respiratory therapists have been among medical staff working tirelessly on the front lines to help care for patients.

They are often in the room alongside nurses upon first admission, helping with any oxygen-related needs such as intubation.Respiratory Care Area

“We’ve had a really big increase in critical patients and taking care of some very sick patients,” McManigal said. “Some of the sickest patients we’ve ever taken care of.”

Together, therapists and nurses work to make sure patients receive the best possible care. However, patients are suffering from symptoms after beating the virus, continuing to require the care of respiratory therapists.

Medical staff have seen significant decrease in lung function that is making it hard for patients to breathe, similar to patients with COPD.

“Obviously with post-COVID, we don’t really know what it’s going to look like years down the road. If it’s going to stay that way, if some of them will eventually heal and get a little bit better since it is a new disease,” she explained. “But their lung functions have definitely decreased of how well their lungs are working and so it’s just making them a lot harder to breathe.”

Despite everything, she is grateful for the recognition the pandemic has brought to her job and colleagues.

“A lot of people don’t really know what a respiratory therapist is or does. I feel like we’ve kind of been in the spotlight a little bit with this pandemic,” she said. “So it is kind of nice to get that recognition out there and what we actually do. That we are a very important role in these critical patients.”


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