It’s a time to recognize the outstanding dedication and passion of respiratory therapists like Serafina Chau.
After 17 years as a respiratory therapist, Serafina Chau still loves her job. She works primarily in the Intensive Care Unit of Royal Columbian Hospital, caring for many of the sickest COVID-19 patients.
Serafina and her respiratory therapist colleagues in Fraser Health play a critical role on the COVID-19 care team. When SARS-CoV-2 aggressively targets the respiratory system, some patients require mechanical ventilation (ventilators), to help them breathe. Respiratory therapists, intensivists and physicians carefully place the necessary lines and supports for the patient.
“Respiratory therapists have been alongside other disciplines throughout this pandemic,” says Serafina. “We’re exhausted at times, as we don full Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to enter a patient's room and often stay in there for hours.”
A respiratory therapist is with every patient who is intubated and ventilated. It was discovered early on in the pandemic that a technique known as proning – laying patients on their stomachs for periods of time – helped improve oxygenation in the lungs. Proning patients is labour-intensive because it requires additional personnel to provide therapy safely and every tube, sheet or gown has to be placed strategically. Patients can be in the prone position for 18 hours; a crinkle in a bed sheet or a tube positioned poorly can be extremely painful and lead to sores. Even people recovering at home from COVID-19 can benefit from proning.
Serafina Chau views the role of respiratory therapist as complex and ever-changing but rewarding at the same time. Respiratory therapists work throughout the hospital, helping patients take their first breaths in the neonatal intensive care unit and caring for them until their last breath in the intensive care unit. She credits her team for helping her get through the darkest days of the pandemic.
“I have never been more proud of this team as I have been in the past year,” she says.
Watch here to learn more about Serafina's role as a respiratory therapist:
Fraser Health is hiring dedicated and passionate Respiratory Therapists. Know someone who might be interested? Share these opportunities with your network.