College’s program prepares respiratory care therapists for pandemic


CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — The health care workers dealing most directly with COVID-19 patients are not just doctors and nurses. They are also respiratory care therapists, trained specifically for helping patients breathe.

“It’s a little surreal right now, being in the last few weeks of the program and all of a sudden there’s a pandemic that’s tailored specifically for respiratory,” said Megan Metcalf, a Parkland Respiratory Care student. It was long before the COVID-19 outbreak that she knew this was her niche. “My mom has asthma, my brother has chronic bronchitis. He was on a ventilator when he was a baby, so I already kind of knew about the program, about respiratory in general.” She will graduate in May, hoping to immediately join the ranks of program alums like Brianne Condi.

“We definitely need registered respiratory therapists in central Illinois,” said Condi. She is in the hospital rooms with patients, helping them fight back against COVID-19.

One of the biggest lessons Condi took from Parkland’s program, to her job at Decatur Memorial Hospital, is the importance of patient advocacy. “If somehow there is a lapse in the treatment plan, the inpatient respiratory therapist can be there to help hold those patients hands. Whether it be as simple as a nebulizer, to someone being on a mechanical ventilator.”

The Respiratory Care Program has been around since the 70s. But now during this pandemic, Program Director Midge Seim wants people to see and know this: Respiratory care workers are critical. Their mission is simple: Rest easy, and breathe easy. “We aren’t as visible. At the bedside, often confused with ‘are you my doctor, are you my nurse?’ No I’m your respiratory therapist and I’m here to take care of all of the breathing issues,” said Seim.

The program director said Parkland is still looking to fill a few slots for their fall class of respiratory care students. If you know someone who may be interested in applying, click here.

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