SIOUX CITY, Iowa — It's something we do, tens of thousands of times a day. Taking a breath. But for some, taking that breath can be difficult. That's where respiratory therapists come in.
They have been taking care of some of the sickest patients nationwide. Respiratory Therapists are the unsung heroes of COVID-19.
During this time of COVID-19, respiratory therapists have been helping some of the sickest patients.
Siouxland News visited the Respiratory Care Program at St. Luke's College as students learned about ventilators.
"Respiratory Therapy is its own specialty. You don't have to be a nurse or anything like that. St. Luke's College, we are the only respiratory care program in the area that provides specialized training to take care of those patients," said program director Cindy Duncan.
Student Brooke Venema says this program is giving her the hands-on experience she needs ahead of starting her career.
"That is why I love St. Luke's College is because we get this experience," Venema said. "We get to see test lungs. We get to intubate and extubate patients that aren't real. So we get comfortable with it and then we go to clinical."
Right now, students are doing a semester just on ventilators.
"We don't just have to know what the ventilator is doing, we have to know what is going on in those patients' lungs. That is why respiratory therapy is a very specified career," Venema said as she showed us how the test lungs work.
This two-year program gives students the knowledge to take care of patients big and small.
"St. Luke's College is my favorite college because you are studying in the lab and you are going to clinical and you are studying in the classroom, all at the same time. So you aren't just learning in the classroom, you aren't just learning in a lab, you are getting every aspect of your studies."
For more on the Respiratory Care Program and St. Luke's College, visit their website here.
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SIOUX CITY, Iowa — They've become part of everyday conversation and the need for them has increased worldwide during COVID-19.
Thursday, Siouxland News got an in-depth look at how ventilators work thanks to the Respiratory Care Program at St. Luke's College.
COVID-19 is a respiratory illness and one of its telltale symptoms is shortness of breath. Some fighting COVID-19 are put on ventilators to help them breathe.
"That is the life support system that is supporting those patients," said Cindy Duncan, the Program Director of the Respiratory Care Program. "Breathing when they are unable to do so themselves when they are not able to get enough oxygen into their lungs. The ventilators are the process and the machine that helps do that."
Iowa recently purchased 500 ventilators to have in stockpile should COVID-19 cases suddenly spike in the state.
"Ventilators we absolutely need those for stockpile, but you also have to have the people that manage those ventilators," Duncan said.
The Respiratory Care Program at St. Luke's College is studying ventilators now and student Brooke Venema showed me how they work.
"This is the CareScape Ventilator," Venema said as she showed me the machine. "This is one of many ventilators that we have been studying this semester. This is the tubing. This is where the air goes to the patient and back to the ventilator."
The ventilators are connected to a test set of lungs sitting on a nearby bed that mimics a person's breathing.
"You can see how to adjust the ventilator based on things that the patient is doing and the different problems with the patients."
The ventilators have to be programmed for the specific patient they're working on.
"It's very good to know what the parameters mean not only for the patient but what's happening in the lungs of the patient," Venema said. "You can't set the ventilator the same patient to patient and that's why we have a whole semester dedicated to ventilators because you have to know whats going on in the ventilators and you have to know how to set them from patient to patient."
Venema says this program helps prepare them for respiratory care with hands-on experience, especially during this time of COVID-19.
"It's good to feel, touch and see so many types of ventilators because not only are there so many types of ventilators, there are so many different types of settings. You have to know what that setting means and what that means for the patient to help that patient get better."
St. Luke's College has the only respiratory care program in northwest Iowa.
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