Celebrate National Respiratory Care Week 2001

Vol. 14 •Issue 20 • Page 11
Celebrate National Respiratory Care Week 2001 * Celebrate National Respiratory Care Week 2001

By Michael Gibbons, Shawn Proctor & Caroline Crispino

An industrial accident left Scott Ludlow tethered to a mechanical ventilator for a time in 1992. When upon discharge he gathered up his belongings and prepared to quit his hospital room, he glanced at the Servo that breathed for him for a few days and asked himself: “What makes that thing work?”

Nine years later, Ludlow carries the letters CRT after his name. Now he wants to explain to other people how ventilators work and more: how vital respiratory care is to their lives. He fairly burns with missionary zeal for his crusade, which he first undertook while attending an RC program in 1994.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, people really don’t know we exist,’” Ludlow told ADVANCE. “People see nurses and doctors. Some see respiratory therapists; some don’t. I want people to know how we can benefit them.”

Therapists around the nation who share Ludlow’s passion will get a chance to indulge it in short order when the respiratory care profession claims the week of Oct. 21-27 as its own. Hallways in most locations will then come alive with seven days of food, balloons and free PFTs.

Let the fun commence with all haste, we say. After enduring the Sept. 11 tragedy and adjusting to life under the black cloud of international terrorism, RTs need a little revelry like everyone else in America. Respiratory Care Week couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Go forth and celebrate. Toot your own horn. Pat yourself on the back. It’s just what the pulmonologist ordered.


Local TV newscaster Rod Luck of KUSI News is set to climb inside an old iron lung on display at the University of California, San Diego, Medical Center, in San Diego. TV viewers will then see Luck examine some modern day ventilators to appreciate the technological progress made in the field since the 1950s, according to Susan Herzig, RRT, patient driven protocol facilitator and member of the RC Week planning committee. (No, they don’t plan on intubating Luck.)

One hallway near the cafeteria, where foot traffic is assured, will feature the Hall of Fame: a photo display of staff RTs, complete with capsule bios of each, Herzig said. And visitors can don the percussion vest and learn how to manipulate PFT equipment.

Also planned is a lecture by Robert Kacmarek, PhD, RRT, sponsored by Respironics, on positive pressure ventilation, set for Friday at 1 p.m. in the medical center’s main auditorium.

Elsewhere on the West Coast, Harborview Medical Center, Seattle, Wash., is holding a reception in its lobby to honor the week, complete with free PFT screenings, a spirometry unit and an oximeter unit. Two receptions for the day and night shifts will be held showcasing ventilators, new equipment, information on asthma and brochures on how and why to stop smoking. All Respiratory Care staff members will receive a gift during the festivities.

Washoe County Medical Center in Reno, Nev., will host an official mayoral proclamation signing event on Oct. 24. The Mayor of Reno City is declaring Oct. 24 Respiratory Care Day. The week will see several luncheons, gifts, decorated bulletin boards, banners, prizes, raffles, contests and placemats on patient trays.


Clear across the country, outreach is the name of the game at Aroostock Medical Center in Presque Isle, Maine. The tri-campus center, located in a college town near the Maine and Canadian border, plans to set-up a table near the admission desk for patients to visit. “We are planning to talk to visitors and give them information on lung diseases,” Suzanne Shelley, BS, RRT, said.

Hospital guests will learn about the department as well. “We are planning to give them information on respiratory therapy and what it is we do,” she said.

Meanwhile, RTs at Caritas Norwood Hospital “are trying to gain some recognition within the hospital and the community as well,” said Donna Avellino, RRT, department manager of Respiratory Care. The facility, which resides in Norwood, Mass., about 10 miles outside of Boston, will hold a CEU-yielding in-service for therapists, coupled with a special lunch or dinner.


Additionally, Caritas Norwood therapists will head out in the community to present a “Lunch-and-Learn” program for the town’s employees. It will be part of a monthly program series held at the town hall. “We asked to be on the agenda this month because it is Respiratory Care Week,” Avellino said. “The focus will be on COPD and early diagnosis, as well as pulmonary function testing.”

Typically, the event series draws up to 40 attendees.

Finally, because staff members must complete their annual competencies, Avellino worked to make it something enjoyable rather than simple drudgery. When a packet is turned in, it will automatically enter that therapist in a Respiratory-only drawing for prizes like a gift certificate to a local restaurant, a gift pack of chocolates or a set of lottery tickets. “It is designed to make it a little fun and to recognize the staff for the outstanding job they do,” she said.


Scott Leonard, MBA, RRT, administrative director of Respiratory Care Services at Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melborne, Fla., is gearing up for an extensive set of events. “We tell everyone that this is our chance. This is your week. You’re going to get out of it what you put in to it,” he said. “We need to take responsibility, get out there and educate the public.”

It all begins with two days of decorating the department and hospital with banners and balloons, followed by a hospital-wide outreach on Monday. Nurses and other employees will be treated to informative table tents in the cafeteria and candy dishes of lifesavers. The effort is partly subliminal, according to Leonard. After all, he asked with a chuckle, aren’t respiratory therapists actually patient life savers?

The rest of the week includes a demonstration of respiratory equipment in the lobby, breakfasts and pizza lunches throughout the week for staff and a repeat of the department’s open house that was so successful last year that Leonard is doubling the amount of food. “We got cleaned out,” he said. “We also invite our regular vendors to stop in and join in our celebration. After all, we consider them part of our team as well.”

Additionally, the staff of 63 RTs will compete in a “Name That Baby” contest. Therapists will attempt to sort out each other’s baby photos. Most correct guesses will garner a gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse.

The crowning event offered at Holmes Regional is a catered Japanese dinner for RTs. This was a favorite from last year, brought back by popular demand. “The restaurant is the type in which the chefs cook steak and shrimp right in front of you,” recalled Leonard. “Our people really enjoy it.”


In the nation’s midsection, Ludlow, a therapist at OSF St. Anthony Medical Center, Rockford, Ill., is busy for the third consecutive year marshalling a major RC promotional event at local CherryVale Mall.

“We have gotten all three local hospitals, local home care and long-term care facilities involved in public education presentations, all to say, ‘Hi, this is who we are,’” he said.

The Rockford Health Council is also participating in the educational effort, set for Sunday, Oct. 21, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mall shoppers will be treated to free PFT screens and a lecture series from noon to five with talks on asthma triggers, peak flow techniques, living with COPD, MDI technique and other topics.

Residents can take advantage of free citywide PFT screens all week as well.

Ludlow has six interviews with radio stations lined up, including one with Steve Shannon of WZOK, a sleep apnea sufferer who has attested on air how he can’t sleep without his CPAP mask. “One station wants an on-air PFT screen with its radio DJ,” Ludlow said. “The media is more receptive now that it has become an established event.”

National Respiratory Care Week

Is Oct. 21-27, 2001