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Celebrating Respiratory Care Week – Meet Tricia Heller, RRT


As we celebrate Respiratory Care Week we wanted to spend time learning more about our very own Respiratory Therapist, Tricia Heller. We invite you to read our interview with Tricia below:

Why did you become a respiratory therapist?
Tricia: The human body is an amazing machine!! Growing up, I was surrounded by influences in the medical field. I was told healthcare would always be a position in demand. During my teenage years, I watched my great aunt battle the day to day struggle with emphysema. It was then, I knew which avenue in healthcare I would explore. After 22 years as a respiratory therapist, I am still happy with the choice I made about what I wanted to be when I grow up. 😊

What do you love about being a respiratory therapist?
Tricia: I enjoy education… I enjoy the relationships you build with patients and families. I enjoy assisting both patients and families with exercises for better breathing, medication management as well as assisting families in making some of the most difficult decisions they may face in life. The most rewarding role of an RT for me over the years has been placing a speaking valve on a tracheostomy patient for the first time and allowing them to voice again after spending time on the ventilator, after coming off life support. The gift to breathe, the gift to speak, the gift of life… Is something we all take for granted. Being a Respiratory Therapist is a constant reminder of how precious life is and reminds me to appreciate each and every day.

What does being a Respiratory Therapist entail?
Tricia: It requires patience, it requires being supportive, attentive, selfless really. RT’s are truly needed in the toughest of times in patients’ lives. Being an RT, requires working a variety of shifts, being a team member and a support system to nurses. It is being called to the ER to care for an asthmatic in an acute attack- caring for the patient as well as the worried, fearful parent. It is being present for the birth of a premature infant who needs assistance breathing for the first several weeks of life. It is constant contacts with smoking cessation attempts for patients who truly want to quit. It is being called to the ER for the Motor Vehicle Accident patient who left for work this morning thinking today was just another day but currently is a trauma patient and is not breathing. It can be a variety of emotions…Most currently, what it means for me, is day to day cardiopulmonary management of our rehab patients to help them better understand the why, to the medications prescribed, and how to pace themselves with day to day tasks to improve quality of life.

How do I play an active role in the lives of our short term and long term residents?
Tricia: I do my best to ensure the patients who come here for short term rehab return home in better shape than when they entered the hospital. For respiratory care patients, much of the treatment plan is prevention and getting the patient to feel comfort with me to allow me to assist with compliance of use nocturnal support systems therefore decreasing the chance of exacerbation of disease resulting in hospitalization. For Long Term Residents- They make the day fun… They look to me as Family. Knowing each residents normal status allows for early detection of change to allow for earliest treatment intervention possible. Overall, New Eastwood is an amazing team… We’re one big Family- made up of Staff, Residents and Patients!!

We thanked Tricia for taking the time to answer all of our questions about being a Respiratory Therapist and for all that she does here at New Eastwood.

We encourage everyone this week to say Thank You to their Respiratory Team Members for all that they do.

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