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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