Respiratory Care: The Best Job You’ll Ever Hate

Vol. 15 •Issue 25 • Page 66
Parting Thoughts

Respiratory Care: The Best Job You’ll Ever Hate

“I hate this job,” I said.

“Sure you do,” Danny said knowingly. “That’s why you ran down the hall and bumped me out of your way so you could get to the delivery room first.”

“Bumping?” I protested. “That wasn’t bumping. That was racing.”

“That’s from the movie Days of Thunder, right?” quizzed Danny. “Well, Tom Cruise you ain’t. Anyway, if you hate it so bad, why did you jump in there so fast? Surely it wasn’t so you could intubate this kid.”

The “kid” in question was a preemie, making his way into the world despite the best efforts to hold him back. He was covered in meconium, and he was not breathing.

The OB, a new partner, who had worked all day and pulled call, had taken over the doctor’s lounge (an inner sanctum that most OBs pulling the late-night stint were only too happy to share with respiratory therapists) and had stared down his nose at me when I bounced in earlier in the shift and whipped open the small refrigerator to see what the kitchen might have sent up for late night snacks.

I admit, I’d been taking a little more liberty than your normal therapist is allowed in such sacred surroundings, but in the past, I’d pulled off midnight intubations, successful UAC placement and UVC while an OB looked on in panic. I was generally welcome in the lounge.

This guy clearly had not heard of my exploits, however, and he asked me point-blank if I had business in the lounge.

I choked on a mouthful of the Jell-O I had snared and tried to engage him in conversation about his impending 28-week delivery. He merely sniffed at any hint of trouble, and I knew right away he was flying blind.


As I left, I decided I had better be prepared for action. I had long ago learned the valuable lesson of befriending the toughest nurse on the floor, asking her advice and getting the nightly scoop.

Unlike this guy stretched out on the couch, watching high school football, I knew his “stable” patient was going to deliver some time tonight, and the meconium staining he was ignoring was going to cause trouble. I gave up trying to talk to him about his patient and hurried to the OR where I garbed up and rechecked all my tubes, scope, blades and suction.

The old girl network was at work in the NICU by the time I entered.

“Don’t get your scrubs in a wad,” said tough nurse. “I know what’s going on, and we’ve already moved assignments. We have a bed set up, put your vent right over there and gotten some preliminary settings on it.”

I checked in via phone with my source on the delivery floor, and she merely laughed. “It’s your show again, Hotshot,” she said. “The doc just told me there was no way the mother was delivering tonight. He checked into one of the sleep rooms on the second floor and said not to disturb him. No way is that dude going to wake up and deliver.”

“Why’s that?” I asked.

“Because it’s happening just as soon as you can get here,” she said. “Hurry up ’cause the mother ain’t waiting.

“Get someone to bang on the OB’s door, and call Danny,” I advised, slamming down the phone and rushing towards the stairs.

That’s when Danny and I collided in the hall outside the delivery room. But I had a full head of steam up and was in my booties, mask and gown and into the room way ahead of him. The baby was intubated, suctioned and lodged in the NICU before the OB got there.

He took one look at the patient, the vent, the UAC and busy nurses and asked, “Who intubated this kid?”

Okay, I thought, now he’s going to see what an asset I am.

But he didn’t. Instead, the OB shouted curses and berated us. Then he phoned for the neonatologist to take over.


Danny and I rehashed the event many times over breakfast after we finished our shift. Then we shifted to other war stories where our good deeds had been undermined by jealous nurses and inept doctors. Our waffles and coffee had gone cold by the time we retold our versions of the night’s story countless times.

As usual, we got it all talked out and decided what we really needed was a good day of rest.

“Excuse me,” said a man at a nearby table as we were leaving. “I couldn’t help but overhear your story, and it sounded so horrible. Do you really hate your job?”

“You just heard the wrong part of the story?” I shrugged. “I have the greatest job in the world. I just saved a life today.”

Brent Swager is a Florida practitioner.