The Saint Mary’s Regional Health System Respiratory Therapy Department encompasses activities in diagnostic evaluation, therapy, and education of the patient, family and public.
Respiratory therapists and respiratory therapy technicians — also known as Respiratory Care Practitioners (RCPs) — evaluate, treat, and care for patients with breathing or other lung and heart disorders.
RCPs, like nurses in the hospital, do treatments as well as testing. RCPs will consult with physicians and other healthcare workers to help develop and modify a patient’s care. Respiratory therapists use considerable independent judgment caring for patients on life support in hospital intensive care units.
To evaluate patients, RCPs interview them, perform limited physical examinations, and conduct diagnostic tests. For example, respiratory therapists test patients’ breathing capacity and determine the concentration of oxygen and other gases in patients’ blood.To evaluate a patient’s lung capacity, respiratory therapists have the patient breath into an instrument that measures the volume and flow of air during inhalation and exhalation. By comparing the reading with normal values for the patient’s age, height, weight, and sex, respiratory therapists can provide information that helps determine whether the patient has any lung problems. Your doctor may order this test for you.
To analyze oxygen, carbon dioxide, and pH levels, therapists draw blood samples from arteries. Most laboratory tests are done on blood from veins. This “artery blood” is placed in a complicated instrument. The test results rapidly tell how well a patient’s heart and lungs are working. RCPs relay the results to your doctor. Doctors rely on data provided by RCPs to make treatment decisions. Often, RCPs make independent decisions to help patient conditions that need help fast.
RCPs at Saint Mary’s treat all types of patients, ranging from premature infant — whose lungs are not fully developed — to elderly persons whose lungs are unhealthy. Respiratory therapists provide temporary relief to patients with asthma or emphysema (also known as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD). RCPs give life-saving care to patients who are victims of a heart attack, stroke, drowning, vehicle accidents or shock.
To treat patients, respiratory therapists use oxygen and blended oxygen mixtures, chest treatments (vibrating the chest, helping people cough up mucous). RCPs give many medicines by having patients inhale them. When people have trouble getting enough oxygen, therapists increase the patient’s oxygen by placing several kinds of oxygen enriched masks or prongs for the nose on them. Sometimes this isn’t enough…so RCPs may connect patients who can’t breathe on their own to ventilators that deliver pressurized oxygen into the lungs. The therapists use a tube that’s placed into the patient’s trachea (windpipe); they attach the tube to the ventilator; and set a breathing pattern and just the right amount of oxygen entering the patient’s lungs. A recent, exciting development is a ventilator that works for short periods by a mask instead of the tube mentioned above.
Therapists spend much of their time carefully checking on patients and equipment. If a patient appears to be having difficulty breathing, or if an “artery blood test” is abnormal, therapists change the ventilator settings to help the body get better. We often teach in-home care to patients and their families to use ventilators and other life-support systems at home if the patient gets better but can’t breathe on their own for some reason.
Respiratory therapists perform chest treatments on patients to help remove mucus from their lungs and make it easier for them to breathe. For example, during surgery, anesthesia depresses respiration, so these chest therapy may be prescribed to help get the patient’s lungs back to normal and to prevent congestion or even pneumonia. Chest treatments also help patients suffering from lung diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, that causes mucus to collect in the lungs.
Respiratory therapists also administer aerosols—liquid medications suspended in a gas that forms a mist, which is inhaled—and teach patients how to inhale the aerosol properly to ensure its effectiveness. Sometimes this is done
For more breathing health news please call the Respiratory Therapy Department at 479-964-9170.
Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Services is designed to help patients with heart and lung disease recover quicker and return to full and productive lives.
Listed below are the types of specialty procedures that Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center’s Cardiopulmonary Department provides: