Respiratory therapists like Emily Dye play a critical role in helping patients fight COVID-19. When the pandemic hit southwest Missouri, Emily was completing her first year on the job at Mercy Hospital in Springfield. Her passion for respiratory therapy – and her heart for patient care – is seeing her through the crisis.
“The cycle of respiratory therapy is incredibly satisfying – watching patients go from being very, very sick to coming off of the ventilator, having their breathing tube removed and then healing,” she said. “It’s so rewarding, knowing I helped them get better.”
While Emily can’t imagine her life today without respiratory therapy, her future in the field wasn’t always certain. After considering careers in teaching, dietetics and healthcare, the former student found her calling in a cardiopulmonary course at OTC.
“I was considering a career in the medical field, so I attended one of the college’s respiratory therapy informational sessions,” Emily explained. “After that, I took a cardiopulmonary course and it all came naturally to me – that’s how I knew.”
While in school, Emily worked part-time as a respiratory technician at both Cox and Mercy hospitals. The 2019 graduate credits the hands-on nature of OTC’s Respiratory Therapy Program for her success in the field.
“My instructors, Aaron and Brandon, were great because they gave me the ability to think critically,” Emily said. “I learned how to problem solve, and I got to practice what I was learning in a clinical setting – that was huge for me.”
Of all the qualities respiratory therapists need to do their jobs well, Emily says compassion is key, especially when working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You’ve got to have a heart for this profession to be successful,” Emily said. “You must educate your patients and their families – telling them the truth about their condition, but doing it in a compassionate and caring way.”
A balancing act for sure, but one Emily is prepared to face. With respiratory illnesses on the rise, her education and training are needed now more than ever before.