Five things to expect from respiratory therapy
Get the most out of your next respiratory therapy session with these five facts
By Jeffery Brown, Director, Respiratory Therapy, HCA Houston Healthcare Mainland
This article is part of “Healthy Living,” a regular column developed as part of a partnership between The
Texas City Post and HCA Houston Healthcare Mainland, which seeks to shed light on health topics of
interest to the community.
Respiratory therapists play a critical role in hospitals – to put it simply, helping
patients breathe – but unlike doctors or nurses, many patients won’t have
heard of these professionals until they need them. Respiratory therapists are
embedded on patient care teams throughout hospitals – from acute settings,
such as the emergency department, where they help to stabilize patients who
have had strokes or heart attacks, to other in-patient settings, where patients
may have been hospitalized for complications from chronic conditions, such as
asthma, COPD, or emphysema.
Regardless of what brings patients in contact with respiratory therapists, it’s
important for people to know what to expect so they can make the most of
their therapy. Remembering these five facts can help:
- Put simply, respiratory therapy is about helping people breathe: While the methods by which
they do so can be complex, respiratory therapists’ primary role is simply to help people breathe.
This can be accomplished through tools, such as ventilators or medication. Breathing difficulties
can also be managed through exercises or interventions, such as smoking cessation.
- Smoking is respiratory therapy’s greatest enemy: Most patients who end up needing
respiratory therapy suffer from conditions which can be caused by smoking, such as emphysema
or COPD. Many of these patients figure their condition is so poor, that cessation won’t help. On
the contrary, cessation can help mitigate symptoms – not to mention save patients money.
- Anxiety is normal: Anxiety is very common when encountering a respiratory therapist. Often,
the very idea that one would need help breathing is troubling. It’s important for patients to ask
questions, keep an open dialogue with their therapists, and remember they are there to manage
their condition for the short and long-term. The greatest antidote to anxiety is information.
- Be proactive: Sometimes breathing issues come on slowly. Environmental factors can affect lung
conditions, and patients can become used to operating at diminished lung capacity. Physicians
are more likely to catch potential issues in patients who are up to date with their primary care
visits, and run lung functions studies if necessary.
- Compliance is important: Most respiratory therapy visits are from patients who have relapsed
after neglecting their treatment routines. It’s common for patients to disengage from treatment
when they’re feeling better, but the consequences for doing so can be severe. Patients should
discuss issues that may prevent compliance with their care team and collaborate on solutions.
Respiratory therapists play an important role in hospitals and play a critical role on patient care teams.
The better educated patients are on what treatment may entail, the more likely they are to have
successful outcomes. While articles such as this one may be a start, they should ideally serve as jumping
off points for ongoing dialogue between patients and their respiratory therapists and/or physicians.