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Berkshire Health Systems Respiratory Therapy
08:36AM / Monday, November 08, 2021
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The simple act of breathing in and breathing out is something that can be taken for granted. Most people go through life not thinking about it. When breathing becomes a challenge and requires medical attention, respiratory therapists are there to help.
 
"I didn't know what a respiratory therapist was until I was brought into the emergency room in an ambulance," said Joanna Hunt, Clinical Manager of the Respiratory Therapy program at Berkshire Medical Center. 
 
Hunt said the compassionate care she received from the respiratory therapist during this visit to the ER was one of the reasons she decided to become a respiratory therapist herself.
 
Respiratory therapists are key members of the Medical Emergency Team at Berkshire Health Systems.
 
They work in the intensive care unit (ICU) and the progressive care unit (PCU) at BMC, and in the Emergency Departments at BMC, Fairview, and the Satellite Emergency Facility in North Adams.
 
Respiratory therapists assist with anyone who is having trouble breathing and perform intubations when necessary. They also help newborn babies take their first breaths in the Family Birthplace. Behind the scenes, respiratory therapists make sure all the hospital floors have full oxygen tanks and well-maintained ventilators.
 
"The support we provide makes a direct impact on a patient's health," said Ernest Cobbold, a registered respiratory therapist who works at Berkshire Medical Center and Fairview Hospital. "Helping patients breathe more easily saves lives. That is why I'm a respiratory therapist."
 
Like many healthcare workers, the Respiratory Therapy teams at BHS have experienced additional stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The emotional toll of watching patients succumb to the disease left many feeling hopeless. The job also became more physically demanding because of the increase in the need for proning COVID-19 patients. 
 
Proning, which has proven to be an effective therapy for managing COVID-19 symptoms, is the act of precisely and safely turning a patient onto their stomach that and requires several trained professionals to execute properly.
 
Fortunately, the situation is much less dire today, thanks to the growing prevalence of COVID-19 vaccinations, along with new and improved care techniques and treatments to help reduce respiratory distress in COVID-19 patients.
 
One patient's mother shared her family's experience in the North Adams Emergency Department, which exemplifies the impact that a respiratory therapist can have:
 
My son was in the ER [in North Adams] Friday night into Saturday morning. We were [there] earlier in the day on Friday but had to come back because he was having difficulty breathing/wheezing during the night. The staff were great and accommodated all the needs we had. I really would like to highlight the great care that Mike, the respiratory therapist, provided our son. He was patient and kind. He stayed with our son while his dad came to pick me up when we learned he was getting transferred to the main campus. Overall, he did a great job and made me feel at ease. … He treated us as a friend, and my son and his parents greatly appreciated it.
 
Despite the hardships faced over the past year, the Respiratory Therapy teams continue to find meaning in their mission to help patients breathe easier. 
 
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