Respiratory therapists struggle to keep up with demand as COVID-19 cases continue to rise

They are the frontline workers that help to prevent hospitals from being full, therapist says

Karen Jordan Image
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Respiratory therapists struggle to keep up with COVID-19 demands.
Respiratory therapists have been the frontline workers helping patients who cannot breathe due to COVID-19.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The COVID-19 surge has meant that hospitals are getting busy again and respiratory therapists are among those helping patients who cannot breathe.

"There's finally been a spotlight shined on this unsung hero group of folks that have been there the whole time, but nobody ever knew who we were," said Brady Scott, a respiratory therapist at Rush University Medical Center.

Scott said the height of the pandemic in the Spring was the most difficult time in his nearly 20-year career.

"That made H1N1 look like a walk in the park," Scott said.

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He added that the volume of patients who needed ventilators and overall prolonged care for the lungs increased the workload. There were already not enough respiratory therapists to handle the volume.

"Average respiratory therapist is probably in their mid-50s, and there's just not enough people coming in on the frontline to be able to handle the supply and demand," said Dr. Neil Freedman, NorthShore University Health System.

Health experts hope more people seek out jobs as respiratory therapists in the future.

Many respiratory therapists have not recovered emotionally from the initial onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and are facing burnout during the current surge.

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"While this isn't a curable disease, currently, it is preventable, and it is preventable by following some of these simple rules," Freedman said.

"They're the frontline. They keep the hospitals not so full. They are the ones who allow us the time and the resources to care for those that are critically ill," Scott said.