Without breath, there is no life. That is the reason respiratory therapists are among the first clinicians at the bedside during emergency health situations.

Respiratory Therapists are responsible for anything to do with the patient’s airway or breathing.  Most of our duties are scheduled functions, but we are often needed for medical emergencies. Whenever the nurse is worried about the equipment that assists with breathing, oxygen, suction, and at Acuity, for ventilator patients, the Respiratory Therapist is often the first to be called. We assess lungs and breathing capacity, ventilate patients and manage airway flow and breathing equipment. When the patient struggles to breathe, the rest of the bodily functions are also compromised. Shortness of breathe can create an incredible strain on the patient’s cardiac system often resulting in cardiac arrest.  In these types of situations, we provide emergency care, including artificial respiration, external cardiac massage and assistance with cardiopulmonary resuscitation. There is no greater good you can do than giving someone another chance at life.  It is why all of us at Acuity have chosen the medical field.

I always knew that I wanted to devote myself to helping others and began my healthcare career as an EMT at age 17. I was a member of the volunteer ambulance squad in Atlantic City.  At age 19, I attended Atlantic Community College and in 1982, I obtained my certificate in Respiratory Therapy.  I worked for both Atlantic City Hospital and the satellite site for Children’s hospital in Atlantic City.  I was very happy in my career but was given the opportunity to serve the public as an Atlantic City Police Officer in 1983.

The many careers I had have given me the ability to help people when they most need it, either medically or legally. While the two jobs may seem worlds apart, the fulfillment and satisfaction is often very similar.  During my 25 years as a police officer, I was frequently able to use my medical background.  I served as the medic for the Scuba team for the ACPD, the Bloodborne Pathogen Officer for the department and later moved to the Medical Examiner’s office as an Investigator.  All of these positions were possible due to my medical knowledge and background.  After 25 years of service to the police department, I retired and returned full time to the field of Respiratory Therapy.

My job as a Respiratory Therapist at Acuity Specialty Hospital is exciting, difficult, joyful, sad, but most of all, fulfilling. These are just a few words used to describe the emotions one can feel during a typical day working as a respiratory therapist. I have the privilege and opportunity to change people’s lives for the better each and every day.

The main focus of my duties at Acuity is to care for patients who are ventilator dependent. We assess the patient’s ability to remain off the ventilator for defined periods of time, we evaluate the patient’s blood gases to detect changes in their condition before symptoms present themselves and we constantly monitor the general wellbeing of the patient to assure they are progressing as expected.  Along with that responsibility comes the undertaking of educating the families on the proper way to care for their loved one who is now ventilator dependent. At Acuity, I have the time to meet and greet with family members on a day to day basis with the progress of their loved ones.  All our staff members have the opportunity to connect with our patients and their families on a very personal level.  We get to know their names, who will be visiting on what days and most importantly, how we can motivate the individual to want to get better.

Many of the people we see have encountered a catastrophic illness that has made them ventilator dependent. They arrive very scared and anxious as to what the future will be for them in terms of their independence and ability to care for them selves.  At Acuity, each staff member is a valued caregiver.  We work as a team, incorporating the best medical practices to ensure our patients have the highest level of functionality when they are discharged.  Our goal is to help each patient achieve the best standard of living that is possible.

It is a great feeling when a loved one is admitted to our hospital on a ventilator and we are eventually able to help them breathe on their own without the ventilator. Knowing they are discharged breathing on their own without assistance is an incredible feeling for everyone at Acuity.

By Dave Woldow, Acuity Healthcare Clinician of the Year!